Malabar Trogon (Harpactes fasciatus)

Malabar Trogon

[order] TROGONIFORMES | [family] Trogonidae | [latin] Harpactes fasciatus | [authority] Pennant, 1769 | [UK] Malabar Trogon | [FR] Couroucou de Malabar | [DE] Malabartrogon | [ES] Trogon Malabar | [NL] Malabartrogon


Monotypic species


The trogons are split into three subfamilies, each reflecting one of these splits, Aplodermatinae is the African subfamily and contains a single genus, Apaloderma; Harpactinae is the Asian subfamily and contains two genera, Harpactes and Apalharpactes. Apalharpactes, consisting of two species in the Java and Sumatra, has only recently been accepted as a separate genus from Harpactes. Harpactes is a genus of birds found in forests in South and Southeast Asia, extending into southernmost China. They are strongly sexually dimorphic, with females generally being duller than males. The two members of the genus Apalharpactes are sometimes included in Harpactes.

Physical charateristics

Like most other trogons, these birds are brightly coloured and sexually dimorphic. The male has a slaty black head and breast with a white border to the black bib separating it from the crimson on the underside. The back is olive-brown to chestnut. The wing coverts are black with fine white vermiculations. They have 12 tail feathers that are graduated. The central tail-feathers are chestnut with a black tip, with the second and third pairs from the middle having more black than chestnut. The outer three pairs have long white tips. The female lacks the contrasting black and crimson and has only a slightly darker head and breast that shades into the olive brown on the back while the crimson of the underside of the male is replaced by ochre. In both sexes, the beak is bluish as is the skin around the eye. The iris is dark brown and the feet are pale bluish. The nostrils are covered by tufts of filoplumes. The feet are heterodactyl, a feature unique to the trogons, with the inner toe turned backwards.

Listen to the sound of Malabar Trogon

[audio: Trogon.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

recorded by David Farrow

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 29 cm size max.: 30 cm
incubation min.: 18 days incubation max.: 19 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 0   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 4  


Oriental Region : India and Sri Lanka


It is found in the forests of Sri Lanka and peninsular India. In India it is mainly found in the Western Ghats, hill forests of central India and in parts of the Eastern Ghats


The nest is made in rotting trees or stumps that are easy to carve and pulverize using their bills. The male and female take turns to excavate the nest using their bills. It may take about a month to excavate the nest. The floor is made out of the wood powder and no extra lining is added. Two eggs were seen to be the normal clutch in a study in Kerala although older works suggest that the typical clutch is of three eggs. The eggs are laid with a gap of two days and incubated by both males and females with the females usually incubating at night. The incubation period is about 19 days. The hatchlings are fed mainly caterpillars for the initial period and later provided bugs, flies and orthopterans. The parents do not remove the excreta of the nestlings from the nest. The adults continue to feed the fledged juveniles for nearly 5 to 6 months. They are socially monogamous with pair bonds lasting more than a season.

Feeding habits

Malabar Trogons feed exclusively on insects and fruits have not been noted in their diet unlike in the New World trogons. In the forests of Sri Lanka, they are often found in mixed-species foraging flocks where they may sometimes be subject to kleptoparasitism by drongos. A study in Kerala found that they foraged mainly at 5 to 10 m with females tending to forage lower within the canopy. When foraging on bark, they propped themselves using their tail like woodpeckers, especially on decaying tree stumps. They sometimes descend to the ground and search for insects under leaf litter. They will sometimes fly and try to flush prey and then hover to pick up prey. They may also hang upside down to reach prey on vertical tree surfaces. Prey are often mashed or struck on a branch between the mandibles before feeding on them or prior to feeding young.

Video Malabar Trogon


copyright: Mike Edgecombe


This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
The species is becoming rarer in many parts of India and it is said to be sensitive to forest fragmentation
Malabar Trogon status Least Concern


Sedentary, but may make seasonal movements in the hill regions.

Distribution map

Malabar Trogon distribution range map

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