“A rare and observation opportunity came in a form of a 14cm dwarf sized kingfisher – caught in action, preparing for a breakfast dive, into a sluggish stream tributary off a Tawau River in N. Borneo (Sabah).
“Here is a supposing male photographed in full concentration of its moving, breakfast target… a probable fish (above).
“Subsequent photographs provide the opportunity to study rear plumages of this species that differentiate Oriental Dwarf Kingfishers into two forms: Black-backed (Ceyx erithaca) and Rufous-backed (Ceyx rufidorsa) Kingfisher.
“Two Field Bird Guide Books have different versions. There appear to be hybrids as well with variable degree of black on its feathering – a motleyi?
“Thus readers can decide what or which name one chooses most comfortable to use bearing in mind, in one field guide, recent molecular studies suggest Ceyx erithaca probably is not found in Borneo – (Ref: A Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo by Susan Myers and Phillipp’s Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo- Quentin and Karen Phillipps).
“For now, let’s take this opportunity to appreciate rear plumages of this ‘hybrid’ species that best live up to its name- ‘Rufous backed’ as this colourful October bird took to its Olympian dive.
“Rufidorsa raised both its butterfly looking wings upwards when target was spotted. They revealed black to grey-brown upper winged feathers with two prominent bright, blue spots on its scapulars to contrast a rufous- red crown to upper tail. An interesting central splash of lilac flashed from mantle to rump (below-left).
“In full concentration, the dwarf size fisherman allowed both its wings to shoulder hang as he followed the swimming target (above-right).
“The next plate showed Rufidorsa was about to take his dive. He cocked its tail and clasped his wings like divers did with their hands (below-left).
“Somehow, the aim was not quite at hand to dive for its moving target- supposedly… swimming fish. Rufidorsa was observed to momentarily retract, parted his wings above and uncorked its tail (above-right).
“Waiting with wings hanging off shoulder level, the perfect moment of opportunity came. Quick to the sprint, Olympian diver reclasped its wings, recocked its tail of orangey under tail coverts, Rufidorsa took off like a fiery rocket and disappeared at the blink of my eye downwards to a watery edge (below).
Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
Copyright article and all copy images – Courtesy of Daisy O’Neill Bird Conservation Fund