Ispidina picta (African pygmy-kingfisher, Pygmy kingfisher)

Dwergvisvanger [Afrikaans]; iNhlunuyamanzi, isiKhilothi, uZangozolo (these three terms also applied to Malachite kingfisher), isiPhikeleli [Zulu]; Tshololwana (generic term for kingfisher) [Tsonga]; Afrikaanse dwergijsvogel [Dutch]; Martin-pêcheur pygmée [French]; Natalzwergfischer [German]; Pica-peixe-pigmeu [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora >Aves (birds) > Order: Coraciiformes > Family: Alcedinidae

Ispidina picta (African pygmy-kingfisher, Pygmy kingfisher) Ispidina picta (African pygmy-kingfisher, Pygmy kingfisher)

African pygmy-kingfisher juvenile, Gambia,. [photo Martin Goodey ©]

African pygmy-kingfisher, Mkhuze Game Reserve, South Africa. [photo Rudy Böhmer ©]

Ispidina picta (African pygmy-kingfisher, Pygmy kingfisher)

African pygmy-kingfisher, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Peet van Schalkwyk ©, see also scienceanimations.com]

The African pygmy-kingfisher is widespread across sub-Saharan Africa, partly due to its ability to live in a wide range of woodland types. Unlike many other Alcedinid kingfishers, the African pygmy-kingfisher rarely eats fish, but rather feeds mainly insects, occasionally small vertebrates. It is an intra-African breeding migrant, arriving here in September-October. Soon afterwards, it starts breeding, laying 3-6 eggs in a burrow dug into a sandbank. The chicks stay in the nest for a 2-3 weeks, after which they rapidly develop hunting skills, becoming fully independent soon after fledging. Then, the juveniles and adults migrate back to other parts of Africa.

Distribution and habitat

Widespread across sub-Saharan Africa, absent only from parts of East Africa and southern Africa. Within southern Africa it occurs in the Caprivi Strip (Namibia), Botswana, Zimbabwe, central and southern Mozambique and eastern South Africa. It generally prefers savanna, riverine forest, coastal bush, plantations and gardens.

Distribution of African pygmy-kingfisher in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Intra-African breeding migrant, arriving in southern Africa in the period from September-October. Once the breeding season is over (around March), the juveniles and adults migrate back to other parts of Africa.

Food 

Unlike many other Alcedinid kingfishers it rarely eats fish, but rather feeds mainly insects, occasionally supplemented with small vertebrates. It usually hunts by sitting on a perch, trying to locate prey. Once  it locates something it dives to the ground, picking up the prey item before returning to its perch. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

Breeding

  • It nests in burrows dug into an earthen banks, such as a erosion gullies, stream banks, termite mounds, trenches and pits.
  • Egg-laying season peaks from October-December.
  • It lays 3-6 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for roughly 18 days (recorded in captivity)
  • The chicks stay in the nest for about 18 days (recorded in captivity), after which they rapidly develop hunting skills, becoming fully independent soon after fledging.

Threats

Not threatened, although deforestation is a serious concern as it has damaged populations in KwaZulu-Natal.

References

  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 

 

 

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