Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Ceyx erithaca erithaca (Linnaeus, 1758)

Species:C. erithaca
Common Names:Oriental Dwarf-Kingfisher, Black-backed Kingfisher, Pekaka Api, Burung Pekaka Sepah
Status:Rare winter visitor and passage migrant


A distinctive tiny kingfisher with bright yellow underparts.

Sexes are alike. The lores and face are deep yellow in colour. A yellowish-white patch behind the ear extends to the back of the head. There is a metallic blue black patch behind the eye coverts, above the whitish patch. The base of the bill has a black spot. Crown, lower back orange-rufous washed with lilac. Mantle, scapulars, upper back and wings are black, glossed with metallic dark blue. Rump and uppertail coverts iliac. Tail chestnut, tipped black. Wings blackish brown, edged on inner webs with rufous. Median and lesser coverts black, tipped metallic dark blue.  Shoulder chestnut.  Chin and throat whitish yellow. Breast, sides and flanks yellow, washed with brown, forming an indistinct breast band. The rest of the underparts is deep yellow. A blue patch on each side of the neck, bordered by a white patch below.  

Immatures are duller in colours, with less liliac gloss and has less blue on the upperparts. The white throat and breast are more clearly defined. The breast band is darker and more rusty orange. The rest of the underparts is pale rufous rather than yellow.  Tail tipped with black.  

Soft parts: Iris dark brown. Bill and feet orangy-red.

Size: 11.5–13 cm; Weight: 11.0–14.0 g; Bill: 35.4–37.1 mm; Tarsus: 8.1–10.1 mm; Wing: 55–59 mm; Tail: 19–27 mm

Similar to the locally extinct Ceyx erithaca rufidorsa and differs from it by the dark spot at the base of the bill, blue-black patch behind ear coverts, black wings and mantle.

Read more about the Coraciiformes order.
Read more about the Alcedinidae family.


This subspecies is found in Malay Peninsula, Singapore, Sumatra, Aroa Is (Straits of Malacca).


Bukit Batok Nature Park, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Chua Chu Kang, Kent Ridge Park, Pulau Semakau, Pulau Ubin, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Tuas, Tyersall Woods

Locality Map

General Biology

A rare winter visitor and passage migrant. Birds arrive in Singapore in late September, peaking in October. Singletons have been recorded in subsequent months.

Earliest date recorded: 23 Sep; Latest date recorded: 16 Jun

Found singly in mangrove forests, scrubland and wooded gardens, along banks of small streams. Occasionally found far from water. It has a very feeble whistle, uttered on the wing. It's flight is swift and twisting. At rest, it sits very erect, with the bill pointing upwards or forwards, not hunched up like Common Kingfisher.

One bird found in November had arrested its primary feather replacement: P1=old, P2-4=new, P5-7=old, P8=new, P9-10=old. Another bird found in December 4, 2011 also had an arrested primary moult: P1-2=new, P3-6=old, P7-8=new, P9-10=old.


Feeds partly on fish and crustaceans like prawns, also frogs. It is said to also take spiders. It has been seen flying over the surface of water and snapping up grasshoppers, winged ants and mayflies floating downstreams (Robinson, 1928). After feeding , it casts a pellet consisting of the hard, undigested bones and excoskeletons of its prey that have been compacted in the gizzard.


An adult ringed by the Singapore Branch Bird Study Group on 17 Nov 1974 is the first recent record after World War II. One bird was brought alive to a veterinary surgeon on 2 Oct 1981 (Hails, 1988). There were few subsequent records. This species is probably under-recorded as 2–3 birds were salvaged every winter (Wang, L. K., unpublished data).

Formal records of Ceyx erithaca collected from Singapore:
American Natural History Museum: 2 (2 AA)
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research: 4 (2 FF, 2 MM)
University of Washington Burke Museum: 10 (3 FF, 7 MM)


Bucknill, J. A. S. & F. N. Chasen. 1927. Birds of Singapore and South-east Asia. (Second Edition 1990). Tynron Press, Scotland. 247 pp.

Chasen, F. N. 1939a. The birds of the Malay Peninsula. Vol. IV. The birds of the low-country jungle and scrub. H. F. and G. Witherby, London.

Gibson-Hill, C. A. 1949. An annotated checklist of the birds of Malaya. Bulletin of the Raffles Museum, 20: 1-299.

Gibson-Hill, C. A. 1949a. A checklist of the birds of Singapore Island. Bulletin of the Raffles Museum, 21: 132-183.

Hails, C. J. 1988. An annotated checklist of the birds of Singapore. Unpublished.

King, B. F., Dickinson, E. C. & Woodcock, M. W. 1975. Birds of South-east Asia. Harper Collins Publishers. 480 pp.

Madoc, G. C. 1956. An introduction to Malayan birds. Revised edition. Malayan Nature Society, Kuala Lumpur.

Medway, Lord & D. R.Wells. 1976. The birds of the Malay Peninsula. Volume V. H. F. & G. Witherby Ltd. 448 pp.

Robinson, H. C. 1928. The birds of the Malay Peninsula. Vol. II: The birds of the hill stations. H. F. & G. Witherby. London. 310 pp.

Wang, L. K. 2011. Kingfishers. Pp. 355. In: Ng, P. K. L., R. T. Corlett & H. T. W. Tan (editors). Singapore Biodiversity. An Encyclopedia of the Natural Environment and Sustainable Development. Editions Didier Millet, Singapore. 552 pp.

Wang, L. K., M. Chan, Y. M. Chan, G. C. Tan & Y. C. Wee. 2009. Pellet casting by non-raptorial birds of Singapore. Nature in Singapore 2: 97-106.

Wang, L. K. & C. J. Hails 2007. An annotated checklist of birds of Singapore. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Supplement 15: 1–179, Singapore.

Woodall, P. F. 2001. Family Alcedinidae (Kingfishers). In: del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & J. Sargatal (eds.), Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 6. Mousebirds to Hornbills. Lynx Editions, Barcelona. Pp. 130-249.

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