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Species Guide

Blue-faced Malkoha

Phaenicophaeus viridirostris

The Blue-faced Malkoha, or Phaenicophaeus viridirostris, is a non-parasitic member of the cuckoo family. This bird is distinguished by its waxy, dark blue-grey upperparts and a long tail adorned with graduated feathers tipped in white. Its throat and chin are dark, featuring spiny pale feathers that are branched, while the lower belly transitions to a dull creamy or rufous hue. A striking feature is the apple green bill, complemented by a naked patch of blue skin encircling the eye. Both sexes share a similar external appearance.

Identification Tips

Adult Blue-faced Malkohas measure approximately 39 cm in length. They possess a dark grey back and head with an oily green or blue sheen, and their dark tail feathers are conspicuously tipped with white. The belly ranges from pale ochre to grey. The chin and throat feathers are unique, being branched with pointed, slightly yellowish tips, giving a streaked and spiny look. The eye is encircled by a large blue patch, with a white-fringed red iris. Juveniles can be identified by their duller upperparts and occasional brown wing feathers.


This species thrives in open forests and scrub jungle, favoring environments such as scrub and deciduous forests.


The Blue-faced Malkoha is native to peninsular India, extending south from Baroda and Cuttack, and inhabits a variety of habitats including semi-evergreen, dry deciduous, and open scrub forests. In Sri Lanka, it is typically found in the plains.


While generally very silent, the Blue-faced Malkoha may emit a low, croaky "kraa" when disturbed. It is known to forage in the undergrowth, searching for its prey.

Song & Calls

The Blue-faced Malkoha is mostly silent but may occasionally produce a low, croaky sound when flushed from its habitat.


Nesting within thorny bushes, the Blue-faced Malkoha constructs a robust platform of twigs lined with green leaves. It lays a clutch of two, sometimes three, chalky white eggs. The breeding season appears to be extended and somewhat unclear, with many nests found from March to August.

Similar Species

The Blue-faced Malkoha can be confused with other malkohas, but its branched throat feathers and apple green bill are distinctive features that aid in its identification.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Blue-faced Malkoha includes a variety of insects, caterpillars, and small vertebrates, which it actively hunts in the undergrowth.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List currently classifies the Blue-faced Malkoha as Least Concern, indicating that it does not face any immediate threat of extinction.

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Blue-faced Malkohas on Birda

A map showing the sighting location
Murari Varma
27 Feb 2024 - 1:19am

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