Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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[Mystery bird] Oriental Dwarf-Kingfisher, Ceyx erithaca, photographed “somewhere” in Indonesia. [I will identify this bird for you in 48 hours]

Image: a herpetologist photographed this bird while visiting the islands of Indonesia [larger view].

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.

Review all mystery birds to date.


  1. #1 JPS
    February 26, 2010

    Looking at the bill I’m going to guess that its a type of kingfisher.

  2. #2 Adrian
    February 26, 2010

    Here we go with the bad puns again, but I’m going to say it’s Snow White’s eighth companion, Robin.
    Yes JPS it’s a kingfisher.

  3. #3 arby
    February 26, 2010

    Tastes like very colorful chicken.

  4. #4 John Callender
    February 26, 2010


  5. #5 peter
    February 26, 2010

    thats the bastard that raided my wardrobe!

  6. #6 carel
    February 26, 2010

    I’m with Adrian. As for subspecies, I’d say the Robin is part of Snow White’s Crüe.

  7. #7 SimonG
    February 26, 2010

    Wow! Not seen one of them before. What a beautifully colourful creature.

  8. #8 David Hilmy
    February 26, 2010

    hmmm, Adrian and carel, I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree with you both…

    I believe the “motley” bird to which you refer should have yellow underparts and not the rufous I see, and Adrian, if I’m interpreting your pun correctly, a red-breast, even in paradise, would be out too…

    I would look more towards a definite eighth companion, but closer to the world’s eleventh largest island… and be prepared to be “deceived’ twice!

  9. #9 carel
    February 26, 2010

    I’ve never seen SW’s friend from Babirusaland, but I always imagined him to be a browner fellow than this, although David’s suspicion would explain Grrl’s reluctance to identify the island of origin. I’m going to stand firm and prepare myself for possible humiliation on Sunday.

  10. #10 Adrian
    February 26, 2010

    Hello David, Did you mean a “fallacy” rather than a deception? I think the bill is wrong for that species, too red and large.
    I still have problems including links but if you look at www. for “Robin” I think you will see what I mean.
    I also think the cap should be better defined with a broad supercilium for your candidate.

  11. #11 David Hilmy
    February 26, 2010

    eh, you may be right… the first photos I looked at showed too much yellow but I think I was mislead by the erroneous alternative common name supplied by that photographer so my alternative was indeed doubly deceptive, fallax fallax, but I do see how erthaca is very different from rufidorsa and so I should perhaps take of the apple myself!

  12. #12 Adrian
    February 27, 2010

    Hello David, Yes Rufous-backed is a recent split from the complex and is considered a good species now.

  13. #13 MadScientist
    February 27, 2010

    Honey, I Shrunk the Kingfisher!

    Given the beautiful plumage and the fact that it seems to be nailed to the perch, my guess would be a Norwegian Blue.

  14. #14 David Hilmy
    February 27, 2010

    but ‘e ain’t pinin’ for the fjords…! nor is ‘e bleedin’ demised or bereft of life!

  15. #15 "GrrlScientist"
    February 28, 2010

    i wish i knew who the photographer was, but this image was emailed to me with just the information that you see in the caption. i am hoping the photographer will step forward and provide more info for us, but alas, after months of asking for the identity and contact info for the photograph, i finally decided to use the image as the mystery bird anyway.

  16. #16 David Hilmy
    February 28, 2010

    Hi Grrl,

    I have to say that I am somewhat confused- if there is indeed a taxonomic difference between rufidorsa (and ALL the photos I have seen clearly indicate a bright yellow breast and belly and a relatively small white throat) and erithaca as Adrian proposed (and the increased brown, as opposed to bright yellow, and distinct white throat seem to support this as distinct from the “rufous-backed”) then we really do need to know the precise location of the individual above…

    as articulated by the Internet Bird Collection:

    “Taxonomy: Alcedo erithaca Linnaeus,1758. Bengal.
    Forms a superspecies with C. melanurus. Distinctive rufous-backed form was, in past, widely considered a separate species, “C. rufidorsa“; this view was supported by the situation N of Kuala Lumpur (C Peninsular Malaysia), where there is little hybridization between rufous-backed and black-backed morphs and only the latter is migratory; on other hand, considerable hybridization occurs in Borneo, and also in Sumatra and S Peninsular Malaysia, with a wide range of intermediates, strongly suggesting that the two forms are merely morphs of a single species. Population on Sumatran islands of Simeulue and Batu sometimes separated as race jungei and that on Nias as race captus, but both now seem better placed within nominate; birds of Mindoro have at times been further separated as race vargasi.”

  17. #17 "GrrlScientist"
    March 2, 2010

    sorry about the mix up in classification. i’ve been without wireless for two weeks, and then upon getting wifi restored, i fell ill for three days! i am finally feeling more human (meaning, capable of following up on the taxonomy of this species).

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