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A photo of a Malabar Trogon (Harpactes fasciatus), male
Malabar Trogon, Male

Malabar Trogon

Harpactes fasciatus

The Malabar trogon, Harpactes fasciatus, is a bird of vibrant plumage and sexual dimorphism. The male is adorned with a slaty black head and breast, crisply outlined by a white border that transitions into a rich crimson on the underside. The back is a spectrum of olive-brown to chestnut hues, while the wing coverts are black, delicately patterned with fine white vermiculations. The tail, comprised of 12 graduated feathers, features a central pair of chestnut with black tips, and the outer feathers boast long white tips. The female, in contrast, is more subdued, lacking the stark black and crimson, and instead presents a gradient from a slightly darker head and breast to the olive brown of the back, with the underside a gentle ochre. Both sexes share a bluish beak and eye skin, dark brown irises, and pale bluish feet.

Identification Tips

To identify the Malabar trogon, look for the unique heterodactyl foot structure, with two toes facing forward and two backward, a trait exclusive to trogons. The male's striking contrast of black and crimson against the forest backdrop is a telltale sign, while the female's more muted ochre and olive tones may require a keener eye.


This species is a denizen of the forests, making its home in the lush canopies of India and Sri Lanka, particularly favoring the Western Ghats, central hill forests of India, and parts of the Eastern Ghats.


The Malabar trogon is indigenous to the Indian subcontinent, with its presence mainly noted in the Western Ghats of India and the central wet zone of Sri Lanka.


These birds are known for their stillness, often perching motionless on a branch beneath the forest canopy, which can make them surprisingly easy to overlook despite their colorful attire. They exhibit a tendency to face away from onlookers and may cling laterally to branches when alarmed. During vocalizations, they may perform a subtle tail bobbing.

Song & Calls

The Malabar trogon communicates with low guttural calls, typically heard only at close range. The male's song consists of a series of percussive "kyau" calls, while the contact call is a soft "que" and an alarm call resembles a "churrrr."


The breeding season varies by region, occurring from February to May in India and March to June in Sri Lanka. Both sexes participate in nest excavation within rotting trees, a process that can span a month, and typically lay two eggs. The incubation period lasts about 19 days, with both parents sharing duties and continuing to feed fledglings for several months post-fledging.

Similar Species

While the Malabar trogon is distinctive, it may be confused with other trogon species. However, its unique coloration and heterodactyl feet set it apart.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Malabar trogon consists exclusively of insects, with no fruits observed in their consumption. They forage primarily within the mid-canopy, occasionally descending to the forest floor or hovering to extract prey.

Conservation Status

The Malabar trogon is currently classified as Least Concern by the IUCN. However, it is becoming rarer in parts of India, suggesting sensitivity to forest fragmentation and habitat loss.

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Malabar Trogons on Birda

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Profile picture for Oscar Barlow
Oscar Barlow
29 Apr 2024 - 3:02am
Sri Lanka

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