Family Kingfishers (Alcedinidae)

Least Concern

Oriental Dwarf-kingfisher (Ceyx erithaca)


French: Martin-pêcheur pourpré German: Dschungelzwergfischer Spanish: Martín pigmeo oriental
Other common names: Black-backed Kingfisher, Black-backed Dwarf-kingfisher, Rufous-backed Kingfisher (rufidorsa)

Alcedo erithaca


, 1758,



Closely related to C. melanurus and C. mindanensis; molecular data indicate that they form a well-supported clade with C. lepidus, C. cyanopectus and C. argentatus (and taxa previously included within those species)#R. Much uncertainty exists over taxonomic status of distinctive rufous-backed form rufidorsa, which has sometimes been treated as a separate species, and sometimes as merely a morph; recent molecular study reveals some genetic difference between rufous-backed and black-backed forms, suggesting at least that they are not morphs#R; same study suggests that the extensive plumage polymorphism that is evident in broad zone of intergradation (S Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Borneo) may be the result of introgressive hybridization that occurred in the distant past, when the two forms were diverging from one another (samples of polymorphic birds from intergradation zone were all genetically closer to rufous-backed type, with no evidence of present-day hybridization); in rufidorsa lack of blue-black on wings and dorsal area with associated dark frons and ear-coverts (4), slightly larger average size, with deeper bill, longer wing and longer tarsus#R (ns), non-migratory vs migratory habits (1), and broad zone of intergradation (1) suggest treatment as species is tenable, but zone of intergradation is so broad that this option appears impractical; for present, provisional recognition of rufidorsa as a subspecies#R#R seems marginally more appropriate and satisfactory. Population of Simeulue and Batu sometimes separated as race jungei and that of Nias as race captus, but both now seem better included within rufidorsa; birds of Mindoro (Philippines) have at times been separated as race vargasi. Original specific name erithaca is a noun, and therefore remains unchanged, irrespective of gender of genus in which placed#R; same is also applicable to name rufidorsa#R. Four subspecies currently recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. e. erithaca (Linnaeus, 1758) – SW India (S from Bombay) S to Sri Lanka, and from Bhutan E to S China (Yunnan, Hainan) and S through C & S Indochina to Malay Peninsula (S to Isthmus of Kra); migrates S, reaching Sumatra and Borneo and their associated islands.
  • C. e. macrocarus Oberholser, 1917 – Andaman and Nicobar Is.
  • C. e. motleyi Chasen & Kloss, 1929 – N & E Borneo.
  • C. e. rufidorsa Strickland, 1847 – S Malay Peninsula (S of Isthmus of Kra), Sumatra and adjacent islands (Simeulue, Nias, Batu Is, Mentawai Is, Bangka, Belitung) and Borneo (except N & E) to NC & W Philippines (Mindoro to Palawan) and Java E in Lesser Sundas to Sumbawa, Flores and Pantar#R.
  • Descriptive notes

    12·5–14 cm; male 14–21·5 g, female 14–16 g. Both sexes of nominate race have black spot on forehead, blue and white patch on side of neck,... read more


    High-pitched “tsriet-tsriet” or soft “tjie-tjie-tjie” in flight.


    Deciduous and evergreen primary and secondary forest, alluvial forest, mangroves, overgrown rubber... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects, including mantises (Mantodea), grasshoppers (Orthoptera), flies (Diptera), water beetles (Dytiscidae), winged ants (Formicidae),... read more


    Lays in Jul–Sept in SW India, in Feb–Jul in Sri Lanka, in Apr–May in NE India, in Mar–Jul in Peninsular Malaysia,... read more


    N populations migrate S to Peninsular Malaysia mainly Aug–Sept, and return N in Mar; large... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Widely distributed, but often reported as scarce, particularly in N parts of the range. Apparent scarcity could be a result of its being overlooked,... read more

    Recommended citation

    Woodall, P.F. (2019). Oriental Dwarf-kingfisher (Ceyx erithaca). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 8 December 2019).