The Story of the Little African Pygmy Kingfisher

This is a true story which happened at Balaba Nature Camp in The Gambia. I have written it for my grandchildren, Alyssa and Joshua, but I’m sure they won’t mind if you read it too.

Early one morning, Lamin was sitting outside his house enjoying the morning sunshine. He could hear the birds singing all around, and see them flitting in and out of the trees as they looked for food. Some birds had babies in their nests, so they needed to hunt extra hard to find enough food to feed themselves and their chicks.

All of a sudden, Lamin heard a small bang! He looked up, and was just in time to see a little bird falling to the ground not far from his feet. Slowly and carefully, Lamin got up and moved closer to the tiny creature to get a better look. The bird was sitting in the dust looking very confused and dazed – he had flown right into the mosquito shield in front of the verandah!

The small bird was an African Pygmy Kingfisher, and was only about 12 centimetres long. He had beautiful orangey-brown feathers on his chest, face and neck, and gorgeous shiny blue feathers on his body. Isn’t he beautiful?

He also had a very long beak, which kingfishers need to catch the fish they love to eat. Kingfishers sit on a branch over a river or pool, watching carefully to see small fish swimming through the water. When they see one, they plunge into the water like an arrow, and usually catch the fish in their red beak. They wriggle it round until the fish’s head is facing into their mouth and then they swallow the fish without chewing it at all. I hope you don’t eat your dinner that way!

The tiny kingfisher sat on the ground for a long time. I think perhaps he had a headache, or had hurt himself, because he hardly moved, even when other people came out to have a look at him and take photos. Lamin started working near him, putting new concrete onto the steps of the house, but even though he made quite a noise banging around, the little kingfisher didn’t budge an inch. He just sat there with his eyes shut tightly, as if he wanted everyone to go away and leave him alone.


After a long time, one of the dogs that lives at Balaba came wandering by, but when he saw the tiny kingfisher sitting on the ground, he pricked his ears up and came over to have a sniff. Lamin was worried that the kingfisher would be even more frightened and upset, so he gently caught the little bird, and put it safely onto the verandah so it could rest in peace.

African Pygmy Kingfisher

I think the kingfisher must have liked music, because he fluttered up and settled down next to the radio for some time.

African Pygmy Kingfisher

Eventually he fluttered to the floor again, and there he sat – all morning – without moving much at all. Dodou thought he might like a drink or water, or even a bath, because by now it was very hot. So he got a flat dish, put some water in it, and left it for the kingfisher to find. After a while, the kingfisher hopped in and sat, but he still didn’t look very happy.

African Pygmy Kingfisher

Eventually, Lamin decided that the little kingfisher needed to be near the trees, where he could fly away if he wanted to, and see the other birds. He might even see its mate who had sat on a stick earlier that morning waiting for him.

African Pygmy Kingfisher

So Lamin picked up the kingfisher very carefully, carried it over to the bird bath, and placed it right next to the forest where the kingfisher would feel safe. The little kingfisher sat there for quite a while, then finally fluttered off into the trees.

We don’t know how it is now, but we hope it’s feeling much better, and that it’s now sitting on a branch next to his mate, just like the day before when we saw it in the tree outside our bedroom window.

African Pygmy Kingfisher

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