The African Pygmy Kingfisher is the smallest of the family occurring in South Africa – adults weigh only 15g! Despite their family name, Pygmy Kingfishers live mainly on insects, spiders and small reptiles and inhabit forests, woodland, savanna and thickets, often far removed from open water. They are shy, secretive and easily go unnoticed despite their colourful plumage.
During the breeding season, which spans the spring and summer months here in South Africa but may be year round in Africa’s equatorial zone, Pygmy Kingfishers form monogamous pairs, and both parents help to excavate the nesting chamber, up to 60cm deep, in vertical soil walls, termite mounds or the inside of animal burrows. Clutches consist of 3-6 eggs and are incubated by both parents for almost three weeks. The chicks grow quickly, leaving the nest when they’re between two and three weeks old and becoming independent soon afterwards.
These tiny winged jewels are summer visitors to our country, arriving from equatorial Africa around September and leaving again by March. While here they can be found along the eastern coast and adjacent interior and in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. Their distribution range covers most of sub-Saharan Africa. The IUCN considers the species to be of least concern.