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Bird of the Week – Malabar Trogon

12 October 2010 No Comment

The Malabar Trogon (Harpactes fasciatus) is a beautiful bird species in the trogon family. It is endemic to the forests of Sri Lanka and India, mainly at Western Ghats. These birds are very shy in nature and that makes them difficult subjects to bird photographers.
In Kerala, it’s known as “Thee-kakka” – meaning a fire-crow – due to its bright crimson red colored underside. These birds usually perch still, preferred to be in a territory without moving around so much. Its bright colors and the sound of wing flaps often make these birds easy to locate even from a thick forest. They usually found in pairs and preferred to be in a territory without moving around too far.

Size and Colorization

malabar trogon
They are sized up to 31cm long. Trogons have distinctive plumages among male and female.
Male: The male has a black head and breast in the Indian race H. f. malabaricus, and dark grey in the Sri Lankan H. f. fasciatus. A white border line separates the black upperparts from its crimson bottom. The back and tail are cinnamon, and the wings are dark grey. The bright crimson red bottom of the male makes it easily
Female: The female lacks the bright red colour and is largely cinnamon, with a darker shade on her head and breast. The wings are brown.


The make their nest by carving rotting trees or stumps using their bills. The male and female take own turns to complete this job by a month time. The floor is made out of the wood powder and no additional items are used. Two eggs were seen to be the normal 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 newborns are fed mainly caterpillars for the initial days and later with bugs and flies. 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.


Malabar Trogons feed exclusively on insects and fruits have not been noted in their diet unlike in the New World trogons. A study in Kerala found that they foraged mainly at 5 to 10 m with females tending to forage lower within the canopy. 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.


The contact call is a series of about five low intensity “cue” while these where of higher intensity in territorial fights. The alarm call is a “hrrrr….” and a similar call is also delivered prior to roosting.

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