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Unlocking the Mysteries of the Black-Backed Dwarf-Kingfisher: Plumages Behavior and Survival

The Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher, scientifically known as Ceyx erithaca, is a fascinating and elusive bird species that inhabits the dense forests of Southeast Asia. This small but beautiful bird is admired for its striking plumage and unique behavioral patterns.

In this article, you will learn about the identification, plumages, and molts of the Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher, providing you with a deeper understanding of this enchanting bird.


Field Identification

The Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher is about 13 centimeters in length and has a body weight of approximately 13 grams. The bird has a distinctive black upper back and crown, a rufous-orange breast, and a white belly.

It also has a bright blue stripe above the eye and a blue tail. The beak and legs are black, and the eyes are dark brown.

The female of the species has a paler blue stripe above the eye compared to the male. These unique color patterns help to distinguish the Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher from similar-looking bird species.

Similar Species

It is essential to note that the Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher can be mistaken for two other bird species, the Philippine Dwarf-Kingfisher and the Javan Dwarf-Kingfisher. However, the Philippine and Javan Dwarf-Kingfishers have different color patterns, making them easier to identify.

The Philippine Dwarf-Kingfisher has a blue band on the wings, while the Javan Dwarf-Kingfisher has a significant white patch on the underparts and a blue-grey head.


The Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher has a unique plumage pattern that changes as it matures. It is classified into three different plumages: juvenile, immature, and adult.

Juvenile Plumage: The juvenile Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher has a brown head, a black chest, and white underparts. The feathers on the back are buff-brown with black spots.

Immature Plumage: The immature plumage is similar to the juvenile plumage, but the feathers on the back are no longer spotted. They are instead replaced with a solid black color.

Adult Plumage: The adult plumage has a black upper back and crown, a rufous-orange breast, and a white belly. The blue stripe above the eye is vivid and prominent.


The Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher undergoes a single complete molt each breeding season, which happens in September. The molted feathers in the adult plumage are black with a blue sheen, while the juvenile and immature plumages molted feathers are brown.

This molting pattern ensures that the bird’s physical appearance is kept up to date.


The Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher is a stunning bird species that attracts attention for its colorful plumage and unique behavior. Its distinct color patterns help identify it from similar bird species, making it easy to spot in the wild.

This article provides a comprehensive guide to the identification, plumages, and molts of the Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher, providing readers with a deeper understanding of this remarkable bird. Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher (Ceyx erithaca) is a small bird species and belongs to the Alcedinidae family.

It is endemic to Southeast Asia, inhabiting dense forests and riverside habitats. This bird species has a long and fascinating history, which includes changes in distribution, systematic revisions, geographical variations, and the emergence of related species.

Systematics History

The systematic history of the Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher dates back to the 18th century, but it was not until the 19th century that the species was formally described. The taxonomy of this bird has undergone several revisions, and it has been categorized under different scientific genera such as Alcedo, Ceyx, and Ispidina.

However, it was later clarified that the Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher belongs to the Ceyx genus, a group of small river kingfishers.

Geographic Variation

The Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher is widely distributed in Southeast Asia. The bird inhabits dense forests and riverside habitats in countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Myanmar.

However, the distribution of this species has been affected by historical changes, leading to geographical variations.


The Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher has several subspecies that are unique in their appearance and distribution. These subspecies include Ceyx erithaca erithaca, Ceyx erithaca intermedia, and Ceyx erithaca pernix.

The subspecies are identifiable based on physical appearance and geographical location. Ceyx erithaca erithaca is found in Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

This subspecies is the most widespread and differs from others due to a smaller crown patch and paler underbelly. Ceyx erithaca intermedia is only found in Palawan Island in the Philippines and is easily distinguished from the other subspecies due to its brighter blue head color.

Ceyx erithaca pernix is found in southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia, and is notable due to its heavily spotted wings.

Related Species

The Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher belongs to the Ceyx genus, a group of small river kingfishers that inhabit Southeast Asia and Australia. In addition, there are several other Ceyx subspecies and kinship species, such as the Black-billed Kingfisher, Oriental Dwarf-Kingfisher, and the Blue-eared Kingfisher.

All of these bird species share some similarities in physical appearance, habitat, and geographic distribution.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The distribution range of the Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher has changed over time, influenced by geographical and historical factors. There have been several significant changes in distribution, including range extensions and contractions.

In the 1950s, the Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher’s population decreased due to habitat loss caused by extensive logging and forest clearance. However, the bird species’ range has since stabilized due to fragmentary primary forests and secondary growth forests.

Furthermore, deforestation threats continue to perpetuate and intensify across its range, and the species is now considered as “Near Threatened.”

The historical changes in the Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher’s distribution have been documented in a range of literature sources, from scientific journals to bird-watching guides. Furthermore, conservation organizations have identified such occurrences in environmental policy initiatives to raise awareness and provide protective measures for the species.


The Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher is an intriguing bird species found in Southeast Asia and belongs to the Ceyx genus. Its history is deeply rooted in geographical variation, systematic taxonomy revisions, and alterations in distribution.

However, its current habitat and population trends suggest that its conservation status requires serious attention. By adhering to scientific and conservation research, policy initiatives, and community-based efforts, we can ensure the future of the Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher – which is an essential component of Southeast Asian biodiversity.

The Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher (Ceyx erithaca) habitat relies on tropical and subtropical forests, both primary growth and secondary forest patches, and riverside areas. This bird species’ habitat is threatened by deforestation, logging activities, and agricultural expansion that destroys primary forest habitats.

Movements and migration of the Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher have been studied for some subspecies, but knowledge of such for other subspecies or populations is limited.


The Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher inhabits a vast array of riverine forests, mangrove forests, and secondary growth forests within South and Southeast Asia. These birds can often be found near a body of water, including streams, ponds, and rivers, and are commonly sighted in dense vegetation around riverbanks.

The species is vulnerable to habitat destruction threats caused by deforestation events that degrade and fragment primary forests creating barriers which can isolate populations. In addition, logging activities, agricultural expansion, and land conversion for human settlement sever ecosystems and affect the availability of food source for the birds.

Changes in habitat use, including space availability, food resources, and breeding opportunities, can alter bird distribution within their natural range.

Movements and Migration

The movements and migration patterns of the Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher are not adequately understood, although studies on some subspecies have provided useful insights. In some cases, the species experiences minor dispersion changes usually limited to short and erratic flight patterns due to the bird’s reluctance to extend its range too far from its natural habitat.

For example, Ceyx erithaca albiventris, a subspecies found in Sulawesi, Indonesia, has different migratory patterns each year, with some birds remaining within their established territories, while others move to other areas to breed. This behaviour is known as short-distance partial migration.

However, the majority of the species is believed to be sedentary, with minimal movements to seek new habitats or favourable breeding locations. In studies where movements and migration patterns have been tracked, the birds have displayed characteristics such as being largely solitary and fiercely territorial.

Observations suggest that birds move to different territories within their established breeding locations rather than emigrating to new regions. In addition, due to the species’ sheer numbers and tendency to remain in small, confined areas, the bird is unlikely to display migratory tendencies like some other bird species.

To add to this, it is also believed that the bird’s habitat fragmentation leads to genetic isolation persisting for these small, sedentary populations, often leading to genetic divergence and mutational differences between subpopulations. Therefore, protection of undisturbed, healthy and uninterrupted forest patches must be done to reduce this genetic drifting and conserve the species effectively.


In conclusion, the Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher is a sedentary bird species that prefers to live in densely forested, humid and hot environments. A vast majority of its range is represented by small and relatively isolated populations.

Consequently, this bird is vulnerable to habitat destruction and fragmentation, and its genetic structure is highly susceptible to drift and divergence when isolated. However, as studies have shown, several subspecies do not display migratory tendencies, and their movements may occur only within established breeding territories.

To promote sustainable conservation of this species, conservation policies should prioritize conserving forest habitats to protect the species’ natural range, including the promotion of breeding sites for successful genetic exchange among different subpopulations. The Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher (Ceyx erithaca) is a small bird species found in Southeast Asia that inhabits dense forests and riverside habitats.

The bird’s diet and foraging behavior are unique and integral to the species’ survival. Furthermore, the Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher has a wide range of vocalizations that it uses for communication and socialization.

Diet and Foraging

The Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher has a carnivorous diet that mainly consists of insects, arthropods, and small aquatic animals such as fish and crustaceans. It uses its sharp bill to hunt prey, which is usually collected from low vegetation, or more commonly, from the water surface.

This feeding behavior is characteristic of the Alcedinidae family that specializes in piscivorous prey items.


The Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher is an opportunistic feeder that hunts whenever prey is available, mainly in the early morning and afternoon. When feeding, the bird takes on a sit-and-wait technique whereby it perches on a low branch or near the water’s surface, monitoring the surroundings for potential prey.

Once spotted, the birds quickly dive and capture the prey with its sharp bill.


The diet of the Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher is influenced by the local availability of prey. The exact range of prey items consumed by the species varies slightly among their different geographic distributions.

For example, in Australia, the birds mainly feed on freshwater shrimp, dragonflies and damselflies larvae, and small fish, while in other range points, it feeds on insects such as beetles, moths, cicadas, fly and grasshopper. Nonetheless, the main component of their diet is fishes.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher’s small size coupled with its high metabolic rate makes it vulnerable to rapid heat loss. To regulate the bird’s internal temperature, it must keep its metabolic rate high, even at rest.

In addition, it maintains a high body temperature by concentrating its metabolic energies on its feathers and maintaining a layer of insulation. The bird’s metabolism and internal temperature regulation play a significant role in its diet, its ability to assimilate nutrients, and digestion.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

The Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher has a wide range of vocalizations and calls that it uses for communication and socialization. These vocalizations vary between males and females, adults and juveniles, and between different situations.


The bird’s vocalizations are characterized by high-pitched melodies and trills. The vocalization is an essential element of its social behavior, used to attract mates, warn of the presence of predators, and claim territorial boundaries.

Males sing to establish their territory and attract females during breeding. The song consists of repeated, high-pitched syllables that have an ascending pitch toward the end.

The males’ songs can be heard during the breeding season, usually in the early morning at dawn, and are an excellent way to identify their habitat locations. Females’ songs are shorter and more straightforward, consisting of repetitive, high-pitched whistles, and are used to establish contact with their mates or offspring.

The Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher’s vocalization behavior has been studied in captivity, allowing scientists to learn more about the birds’ communication strategies. The vocalization patterns have been used as an essential tool for species identification and location, aiding in bird conservation and habitat preservation.


The Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher’s feeding behavior, diet, metabolic rates, and temperature regulation are essential to the species’ survival. Its vocalizations are also a crucial part of its biology, used for communication, socialization, and habitat location.

Understanding the bird’s diet, foraging habits, vocalizations, and communication strategies can provide insight into the species’ ecology and conservation measures that should be put in place. Policymakers and conservationists should prioritize securing the species’ habitats to ensure its survival in the future.

The Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher (Ceyx erithaca) is a fascinating bird species found in Southeast Asia. Its behavior encompasses several key areas, including locomotion, self-maintenance, agonistic and sexual behavior, as well as breeding.

The bird’s demography and populations are also significant aspects that require attention to ensure its continued survival in the wild.



The Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher has a distinctive flight pattern characterized by rapid flapping and short glides between tree canopies or within open areas. It flies surprisingly quickly for a small, riverine kingfisher and is highly maneuverable.

However, it is not a long-distance flier like other bird species in the same family.


The Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher uses its beak to preen and groom the feathers to maintain their insulation properties. As a result, their feathers retain the waterproof and insulation properties that allow the bird to move freely between water and air without compromise.

Additionally, the bird’s beak and talons aid in removing parasites, dirt and general debris from feathers. The oil from a gland near its tail is also spread over its feathers by the bird to ensure maximum waterproofing and to prevent feather damage.

Agonistic Behavior

The Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher displays agonistic behavior when defending its territory. They vigorously protect their territories against conspecifics or other birds.

Agonistic behavior is expressed in the form of threats, postures and calls, and even physical combat on occasion.

Sexual Behavior

The Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher is monogamous, meaning that it forms a breeding partnership with one mate for life. Pairing ties can last multiple breeding seasons, and partners often engage in regular courtship displays.

Partner birds are territorial, and typically, the female selects the breeding territory where the pair will raise their chicks.


The Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher undergoes seasonal breeding, which usually takes place between May and July in Southeast Asia, and November and January in continental Australia. The breeding pair builds a nest cavity in the bank of river systems or in a termite mound, with a short entrance tunnel and a chamber where the eggs will hatch.

Once the nest is constructed, the female lays up to three eggs that are cylindrical and glossy, with a white surface that has reddish-brown spots and blotches. The incubation period lasts 17 to 19 days, and the chicks hatch under the female’s care.

Demography and Populations

The Black-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher populations are in decline due to habitat loss and degradation. Although the species is not yet listed as endangered, rapid population declines have led to growing concern for its conservation status.

In some areas where the species occurs, increased anthropogenic activities, habitat destruction, river diversion, and floodplain reclamation are common threats. The conversion of forests to plantations, urbanization, and electro-fishing are also some of the significant threats leading to decreased population size.

An increase in awareness of specific populations and ensuring the effective implementation of conservation policies can help safeguard the species. To preserve the Black-backed Dwarf

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