Finfoot bird


Masked Finfoot is a tropical water bird with webbed lobes that belongs to the family of Heliornithidae. Though the common name of this family is Finfoot, there are 3 genera, only one of them is known as Sungrebe. The one that visit us is the Masked Finfoot. Finfoot having their long necks, slender bodies do resemblances Rails but when they are in the water, they look more like Grebe. But unlike Grebe, they could walk very well and fast.

The actual habitats that Finfoot prefers is unclear beyond the common factor of water and shades. They are found in moving waterways, fast and slow and those broad rivers with slow moving water is top of the list. Then there are lakes in swamps with reed beds, usually within the forest.

Apart from seeing the Finfoot climbing onto logs and preening, out of the water, how much and when they would be on land? Apparently, unlike Grebe their close look alike who don't, Finfoot do forage on solid ground. The Masked Finfoot though adapted for an aquatic habitat but this does not mean that it is clumsy on land. On land it can run fast and even clamber into trees, moving around the branches with agility.

Finfoot is territorial. Keeping the feeding area to itself. They were seen singly or in pairs, must be the time when they are breeding.

 It is still unclear as to how important is cover to Finfoot. Seen or appearing from the edge of thick vegetation were common occurrences. Tall grasses and reeds are essential often hidden among the reeds the presence of the bird remain undetected.  They are very secretive birds. It is not ascertained whether the Finfoot spend most of their time in the water, where they are almost always seen.  The species is generally very shy and retiring presumably hiding under the cover most time. But while being caught in an exposed position, the bird exhibit a contrary pattern, display calmness, can be appear extremely tame and confiding while incubating, rendering it susceptible to human predation

This aquatic bird feeds on invertebrates, mayflies, dragonflies, crustaceans, snails, fish and amphibians. feeds mainly by gleaning insects from overhanging vegetation.

The Masked Finfoot is considered endangered and its population declining. There are fewer than 2,500 birds estimated to be the world and the placement fragmented. Threats are human disturbance and habitat loss. The bird is protected in Malaysia.

Special characteristic e.g. exhibit some changes in appearance prior to breeding - Masked Finfoot develop a fleshy knob above the bill


 Size & diagnostic markings:- The is is a fairly large bird at 55 cm long. The back portion of the crown, rear part of the neck grey. Then the throat and upper part of the neck -black. The bill is thick ending with a small horn. The upper part is brown and the under part white.

 Distribution :-  Assam and West Bengal - India, South Bangladesh, Sumatra and West Java. Winter visitor to Malaysia. This bird is not an easily spotted visitor in Malaysia, by the record mentioned, also in the whole region. So it rarely seen over the years.
 Habitats & preferences:- Mainly in lowland lakes and deserted ponds deep inside forest.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- There is no record mentioning where the Finfoot could be sighted for sure. More reliable would the dates and places of recent sightings.

 In Taman Negara, Malaysia -2005  FRIM -Dec 2004 - 21 May 2005 Selangor Malaysia. Taiping Lake Garden 23 Jan 2005 [one day only]

 Upper Seletar Reservior - Singapore 10 Jan 2010

 Khoa Yai -Thailand March 18,  May 9 & June1 2010


Record of bird's call :-    and Video:-


Masked Finfoot Heliopais personatus


Masked Finfoot  # 1

Masked Finfoot  # 2

Masked Finfoot  # 3

Masked Finfoot  # 4

Masked Finfoot  # 5

Masked Finfoot  # 6

Masked Finfoot  # 7

Masked Finfoot # 8

Masked Finfoot  # 9

Masked Finfoot  # 10

Masked Finfoot # 11

Masked Finfoot  # 12

 My personal jottings on the Masked Finfoot:-

There is no way of finding this bird other than depending on feed-back from birders who has chance meetings. From the conditions that I observed, the bird prefers shallow ponds, large with sunken vegetations. The surrounding of the pond should be forested and remote with little or no human intervention. Having noted there, the last conditions as in Frim was contradictory. There was lots of human presence daily and yet the bird stayed for close to 3 months.

The pond since then has been cleared of it vegetation and the bushes surrounding the pond dramatically reduced.


This Duck liked bird is a  winter visitor to Malaysia. I must say that all the pictures featured are on the same bird a juvenile.

It was by chance that bird got landed in remote pond within the compound of FRIM that the bird became instance fame. This was one single incident that the bird was available to bird watcher for an extended period, the whole duration of the migratory period. Birders and Photographers alike got their fills of quota watching and making pictures of the Finfoot. Much have being written and posted on the net, relating experiences gathered during the sightings. The notes are still not conclusive to under the bird adequately.

So where else be the Duck be sighted next? In the Pedu Lake area?