Thursday, 4 July 2013

Taxon of the Day: Ceyx pictus

Ceyx pictus

Small is beautiful was never more true than for today's Taxon of the Day. Measuring around 12cm in length and weighing about 12g the African Pygmy Kingfisher or Ceyx pictus (Boddaert, 1783) is perfectly formed. One of seven species in the genus Ceyx this bird has a large range across sub-saharan Africa. This specimen was spotted in the Hluhluwe–Umfolozi Game Reserve in South Africa.

Taxonomy and phylogeny in the Kingfisher world has been rather turbulent over the years with difference of opinion over classification and species concepts. Catalogue of Life has all Kingfishers in the family Alcedinidae with 17 genera and 91 species in total. At genus level revisions based on molecular analysis have suggested that Ceyx in addition to Alcedo (which includes the Common Kingfisher A. atthis) as currently delimited may not be natural groups. Many taxonomic sources classify this species under the genus Ispidina, but in the ITIS database the two known species of this named genus have been absorbed under Ceyx with Ispidina pictus a synonym.

The etymology of Ceyx is from Greek mythology and pictus from Latin meaning painted which seems so appropriate as it looks as if it has been daubed by hand with a vibrant palette.  However, the species prefers to feed on mainly insects rather than fish making the later part of its common name seem rather redundant.

To listen to call sounds of Ceyx species (unfortunately not our featured one) go to the fantastic website xeno-canto supported by the Catalogue of Life's future funders Naturalis

CoL Annual Checklist: Ceyx pictus
CoL contributor: ITIS Global
Image copyright: R L F Matthias

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