The Philippine dwarf kingfisher (Ceyx melanurus) is a tiny, shy, forest-dwelling kingfisher which is endemic to the Philippines (2) (3).
The plumage of the Philippine dwarf kingfisher is primarily rusty reddish-brown with a lilac wash on the crown, ear-coverts, breast and rump. A blue and white stripe adorns the neck, the wings are glossy bluish-black, and the back is decorated with a black ‘V’ marking. The throat and belly are white (2) (3).
This colourful forest-dwelling bird also has a striking bright red bill and bright red legs (2) (3).
Three subspecies of the Philippine dwarf kingfisher are recognised, each of which differs in its range and appearance. Ceyx melanurus samarensis differs from Ceyx melanurus melanurus by having a darker back, a more lilac-washed head, and a slightly larger bill and wings. Ceyx melanurus platenae lacks any blue on the neck, and the wings have lilac spots and chestnut edges (3).
The voice of the Philippine dwarf kingfisher is a thin, high-pitched squeak (2) (3).
- Also known as
- Philippine dwarf-kingfisher, Philippine kingfisher.
- Alcedo melanura.
- Length: 12 cm (2) (3)
Despite its name, the Philippine dwarf kingfisher is not known to feed on fish. Instead, small insects and their larvae are its main prey, although it has also been known to eat small crabs (4).
This secretive species leads a solitary life except for during the breeding season, when pairs form (4). The breeding season of the Philippine dwarf kingfisher appears to take place in April and May (4).
Philippine dwarf kingfisher range
As its common name suggests, the Philippine dwarf kingfisher is endemic to the Philippines (3).
Each of the three subspecies occurs on different islands. C. m. melanurus occurs on Luzon, Polillo and Catanduanes, C. m. samarensis is found on Samar and Leyte, and C. m. platenae occurs on Mindanao and Basilan (3) (4).
The Philippine dwarf kingfisher inhabits the understory of dry forest, typically at elevations up to 750 metres (4).
It is frequently found along watercourses, such as small streams, but has also been recorded deep in the forest, far from any water source (2) (4).
Philippine dwarf kingfisher status
The Philippine dwarf kingfisher is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).
As it resides specifically in lowland forest, deforestation is the biggest threat to the Philippine dwarf kingfisher (2). Throughout its range, forest is being affected by logging, mining, or is being cleared to make way for exotic tree plantations for paper production. On Mindanao, the deliberate burning of forests by insurgents is also a problem (4). There is a potential risk that the Philippine dwarf kingfisher’s habitat could be destroyed throughout its entire range (4).
Typhoons are also a threat to the Philippine dwarf kingfisher. In 1987 and 1996, typhoons hit the island of Catanduanes, wiping out large areas of forest, causing floods and silting many waterways where the Philippine dwarf kingfisher forages (2) (4).
It is predicted that the Philippines may experience an increase in the frequency and severity of typhoons due to global climate change (5), which could have a significant impact on the already threatened Philippine dwarf kingfisher.
The Philippine dwarf kingfisher has been recorded in several protected areas, including the Northern Sierra Madre, Bicol and Quezon National Parks on Luzon, and Polillo Watershed Forest Reserve on Polillo. These areas hopefully provide habitat protection and therefore aid in the Philippine dwarf kingfisher’s conservation (2).
Proposed conservation measures for this threatened species include identifying and subsequently protecting important patches of lowland forest that it inhabits (2). More broadly, action is required to prevent further loss of the Philippines’ natural habitats. A total ban on all logging and conversion to plantations in all remaining forest in the country would help not only the Philippine dwarf kingfisher, but also numerous other threatened endemic species (6).
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- The circle of small feathers covering the ear opening of a bird. Also called auriculars.
- A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
- A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
BirdLife International - Philippine dwarf kingfisher:
Fry, C.H., Fry, K. and Harris, A. (1992) Kingfishers, Bee-eaters and Rollers. Christopher Helm Publishers, London.
BirdLife International (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.
Allen, K.M. (2006) Community-based disaster preparedness and climate adaptation: local capacity-building in the Philippines. Disasters, 30(1): 81-101.
BirdLife International (2003) Saving Asia's Threatened Birds: a Guide for Government and Civil Society. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK. Available at: