Iora birds

From the family of Aegithinidae

The Iora is a small and robust bird found across the tropical area and within this family have birds showing plumage variations. They are stout-billed and fairly short tail. The 3 different species found in Malaysia, each differently preferring scrub, dense forest and forest edges. One thing in common among them, their presence easily detected by their loud whistles and then on following through - spotting the birds due to its bright colored plumage. This could only happen if the birds get away from the safety of the thick foliages. The Common Iora seen most often has a large repertoire of calls.

Ioras are insectivorous, have the impression that they would get more insects staying on the top of leaves. So it is assumed that they are at the canopy all the time but not really. It does scout under leaves as well that's why some times the bird is seen hanging upside down from the branches. Then it also catches insects on the wing. Iora can be rated as a very active bird and usually hunt as a pair, calling and feeding the whole time.

One scene not seen by many people and also in special occasions is their mating rituals. Special features of the ritual would be the males would fluffing up their feathers and then in that state do an acrobatic act of spiraling in the air. The whole scene enhanced by its brightly colored plumage is that of a floating ball. On returning to its original perch, he takes up a nice posture which is also seen done by many birds i.e. has the wings spread and drooping his tail.

For nesting materials, another bird that has selected cobwebs to bind the pieces of grasses he has collected to form a uniform cup secured at the forked branch. Both male and female participated in the hatching and fledging process which normally takes 14 days for hatching and another 11 days before the chick is fledged.

Common Iora Aegithina tiphia
Green Iora Aegithina viridissima
Great Iora Aegithina lafresnayei

Worldwide there are 4 species and we in Malaysia are having 3 of them. One of them, the Common Iora is even a bird of the public park which we get to see sometimes  in our garden as well.


1. Common Iora  Aegithina tiphia horizoptera

Size & diagnostic markings:- 13 Cm. This tiny bird at 13 cm looks bulky for that measurement. The bird is very common in parks. Seen on Acasia trees also its presence detected by its melodic calls. As you can see it has a good repertoire as well.  Another point about Common Iora is that the species is dimorphic, male generally appear as yellow and the female pale green.  For the male is the bright yellow head side and under part. This bright color gives the impression. Then the upper part olive green but attention snatched by the black wings white wing bars.  Watch that lower white bar - the feathers arrangement projects that bar to be serrated and not straight. This is critical when coming to differentiate the Common from the Green Iora. The female bird has the yellowish under part in faint shade and that makes the olive green back stands out, giving the impression that bird is more greenish.

 Distribution :-  The bird is resident in the Indian sub-continent, south west China then southwards to the Greater Sundas and Philippines.
 Habitats & preferences:-  This bird prefers public parks and domestic gardens with shady trees. Among the many type of trees, the Acacia auriculiformis. Its presence in the area is signaled by its variety of calls. One call would be chosen and used for period of 30 minutes or so. Depending on the availability of another mate, the call for the day may varies.  Precisely the same time each day. then the bird moves on to another place for other part of the day. If the bird is not around the vincity of your house just head for the nearest public park.
In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:-The Common Iora is a lowland bird and chooses urban places with trees. Seldom strays into the forest edges. So need not mention names of  of parks, just get it a try.
 My personal jottings :-

This is a common bird and no need to hunt for them. Just be consistent in our look out and the best part of meeting up with the bird would to take note of their repertoire of calls.


Record of bird's calls :-    and Video

Common Iora  # 1

Common Iora  # 2

Common Iora  # 3

Common Iora  # 4

Common Iora  # 5

Common Iora  # 6

Common Iora  # 7

Common Iora  # 8

Common Iora  # 9

Common Iora  # 10

Common Iora  # 11

Common Iora  # 12

Common Iora  # 16

Common Iora  # 17

Common Iora  # 18


2. Green Iora  Aegithina tiphia


Size & diagnostic markings:- 13 Cm The Green Iora may be in the places that you are hunting for them. With its close resemblances with the Common Iora, not seeing it could be a case of mistaken identity or not spending time to go for its diagnostic markings. It is best be very sure of what you are looking for before going into the field. The Green Iora almost indistinguishable from the Common Iora at 13 cm as both birds are look alike in the field. The main diagnostic marking is the pale green underpart with a yellow vent. Distinctive too is the broken eye ring that the bird has. The female is similar to that of the Common Iora with the belly is in greenish yellow, the broken eye ring less distinct but the wing bars now in yellow. The lower wing bar is plain and straight.

 Distribution :-  The Green Iora is resident to to the Island of Borneo and Sumatra.
 Habitats & preferences:-  This is another lowland birds. Their preferences are scrubs and trees that are less dense in tree population and scantily leafed. Could be the type of environment that favors certain type of insects. Unlike Common Iora, trees and scrub needs to be far away from settlements or with little human presence. Secondary forest and forest edge with thinning trees amidst of open country.
In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:-The Green Iora is also a lowland bird. Looking through a list of places where I have encountered the Green Iora. Bidor open country on Melastoma malabathricum plants which are slightly larger than scrubs. Rimba Ampang when fruiting only. Odd one - Acasia Magium trees in Taiping Lake Garden
 My personal jottings :-

Lucky for me this Green Iora is a more common bird than the Great Iora. Past experiences showed that their repeated appearances in the names of the places mentioned would be more definite. I think I grasp the consistency in their choice of habitats. Another nice point about the Green Iora is to watch and capture as much picture as possible on their diagnostic marking -the "eye ring".


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

Green Iora  # 1

Green Iora  # 2

Green Iora  # 3

Green Iora  # 4

Green Iora  # 5

Green Iora  # 6

Green Iora  # 7

Green Iora  # 8

Green Iora  # 9

Green Iora  # 10

Green Iora  # 11

Green Iora  # 12

Green Iora  # 16

Green Iora  # 17

Green Iora  # 18


3. Great Iora   Aegithina lafresnayei lafresnayei


Size & diagnostic markings:- 17 Cm. This is of course a large Iora as the name denotes. The upper part and wing is in plain dark color, dark olive green.  the rest of the wings black with greenish fringes. Distinctive is the bright yellow underpart. The female looks like the male but with paler colors.

 Distribution :- The bird is resident in South west China.
 Habitats & preferences:-The Great Iora also a lowland bird, prefers habitats which is completely different. Dense forest with heavily foliaged trees and the bird foraging in the canopy area.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- There are quite a few jungle patches! Old Gombak Road just beside the road itself, Rengit also beside the main road and in Congkak. Knowing the spot is of little help as the birds are constantly on the move.
 My personal jottings :-

 To start off with, I know the type of habitats where the birds are likely to be seen. I can only return to these places where the bird was once there but never did see them again. Therefore the knowledge is only confined to recognizing the right type of habitats with no further clue as to how to meet up with the birds again. I still need more photos of this bird.


Record of bird's call :-    and Video

Great Iora  # 1

Great Iora  # 2

Great Iora  # 3

Great Iora  # 4

Great Iora  # 5

Great Iora  # 6

Great Iora  # 7

Great Iora  # 8

Great Iora  # 9

Great Iora  # 10

Great Iora  # 11

Great Iora  # 12


The 3 Ioras are all lowland birds, with the exception of the Great Iora, the other two Ioras are quite easy to meet up with. The Great Iora unlike the other 2 birds hardly calls or calls much less frequent. This odd habit makes the spotting of this bird moving swiftly in the canopy more challenging.