Leafbirds Birds  

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Asian Fairy Bluebird

From the family of Chloropseidae

This is a small group of birds. Within this category are the larger Fairy Bluebirds and Green Leafbirds. World wide there are only 10 species. Out of which 6 are in South east Asia. I have featured on this page the 5 Leafbirds, then the 6th which is the Asian Fairy Bluebird I have kept it on a separate page for easy search on that particular species. This was the grouping done before the Fairy Bluebird was shifted to a new group all by itself.

These birds are known to feed on berries, insects as well as nectar but more so on berries at times hunting nectar.

Greater Green Leafbird Chloropsis sonnerati
Lesser Green Leafbird Chloropsis cyanopogon
Blue-winged Leafbird Chloropsis cochinchinensis
Golden-fronted Leafbird Chloropsis aurifrons
Orange-bellied Leafbird Chloropsis hardwickii


Leafbirds are medium sized birds with the same body profile as the very common Bulbul birds, so should be easy to spot. However as the name of most birds implies, these are green leaf birds. Birding in tropical forest is a region where all leaves within our forest are green throughout the year. This common name stays - denoting that the natural camouflage for the birds was so good that it is rather a task to spot the bird, let alone getting pictures of the bird among the green foliages.

Most species as I know of have the habit of making continuous calls while foraging. It is always these calls that alert birders to their presence in the area.



1. Blue-winged Green Leafbirds   Chloropsis cochinchinensis moluccensis


 Size & diagnostic markings:- 18 Cm. Perhaps I could recognize the male species better that explain why I have seen this species alone. fairly often in the right places. Though measuring only 18 cm, slightly small but the bird appears larger that that. Different from other Green Leafbird by the glossy-blue to turquoise blue on the fringes of the wings. The sub-species that we are having has a lighter yellow on the fore crown while the whole head is prominently bright yellow. That is the main diagnostic mark. The throat is marked by a black "bib" where the yellow over the head and breast becomes a border to this bib. The under part is light green.

 Distribution :-  The bird is resident to India, Sri Langka, South west China and the Greater Sundas.
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a lowland forest bird and could stray to to mountain just below the sub-montane climate.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:-  This bird was seen in deep forest of Rengit, forest in Awana and also parks like Ampang.
Record of bird's call:-    and Videos:- with calls

Blue-winged Leafbird No.1

Blue-winged Leafbird No.2

Blue-winged Leafbird No.3

Blue-winged Leafbird No. 4

Blue-winged Leafbird No.5

Blue-winged Leafbird No.6

sub-adult Leafbird No.7

sub-adult Leafbird No.8

Blue-winged Leafbird No.9

Blue-winged Leafbird No.10

female Leafbird No.11

female Leafbird No.12

Blue-winged Leafbird No.16

Blue-winged Leafbird No.17

Blue-winged Leafbird No.18

sub-adult Leafbird No.19

Blue-winged Leafbird No.20

Blue-winged Leafbird No.21

 My personal jottings on the Blue-winged Leafbird :-

Leafbirds in general are common bird and easily to meet up with. However the bird is green and fairly small, foraging on the upper storey, it is not spotted. Not until there would be fruiting and few birds with them among them, the Leafbirds are seen. The Blue-winged Leafbirds is slightly smaller than the more commonly seen Bulbul.

Though not originating from this area, Malaysia is now home to this species and can be seen at most forest edges in the lowlands and up to the forest in the sub-montane region

The bird typical of Leafbirds would be making noises like soft whispering murmurs to loud calls. It is matter of making out the calls to ID the species or wait till the colors are seen when the bird exposes itself. Unfortunately, only the males could be ID right away. If the bird turns out to be a female and not in then company of a male bird, then it is much dependence on homework or guess work. Comforting point is that this species normally move around in pairs. Though it has being reported that birds moves around in flock, I had not seen that. The bird may moves in a flock during a bird wave but most time the bird forage alone or with its mate. Not an easy bird to photograph as it has the tendency to weave among the leaves and hardly stay perched in an exposed position.



2. Golden-fronted Leafbirds Chloropsis aurifrons


 Size & diagnostic markings:- 19 Cm. The Golden-fronted Leafbird is never considered as a local bird as they are not. What was seen was either vagrants or escapees from the Bird Park. The bird has all the features of  Green Leafbird as it has an uniformly green color on the upper part as well as the under part. The diagnostic marking are the golden orange fore crown, purple blue upper throat then bordered a path of dark color.

 Distribution :- This is a bird of the Indian sub-continent, south west China and Sumatra
 Habitats & preferences:- This bird cannot be found in Malaysia and which is why I cannot tell its habitat. Purportedly a forest edge bird of the lowland forest, it also visit open country.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- The birds that I saw over a couple of occasions in the KL lake Gardens, Bukit Gasing and Bukit Kiara were likely to be escapees.
Record of bird's call:-    and Video:-

Golden-fronted Leafbird # 1

Golden-fronted Leafbird # 2

Golden-fronted Leafbird # 3

Golden-fronted Leafbird # 4

Golden-fronted Leafbird # 5

Golden-fronted Leafbird # 6

Golden-fronted Leafbird # 7

Golden-fronted Leafbird # 8

Golden-fronted Leafbird # 9

Golden-fronted Leafbird # 10

Golden-fronted Leafbird # 11

Golden-fronted Leafbird # 12

Golden-fronted Leafbird # 16

Golden-fronted Leafbird # 17

Golden-fronted Leafbird # 18

Golden-fronted Leafbird # 19

Golden-fronted Leafbird # 20

Golden-fronted Leafbird # 21

 My personal jottings on the Golden-fronted Leafbird :-

The Golden-fronted is also among the couple of smaller Leafbirds at 19 cm. The bird originating from India is seen in Sri Langka and Sumatra. Definitely not seen in Malaysia.

This is a forest birds of the low hills and sub-montane region.

The couple of birds spotted in our public parks were escapees from the Bird Parks. So far no reports of breeding locally nor were there follow up of the birds being consistently sighted.


3. Greater Green Leafbird  Chloropsis sonnerati


 Size & diagnostic markings:- 22 Cm. This Greater Green is hardly seen as most times when one was spotted, invariably the time would be too short to ascertain its ID but to assume a Green Leafbird was spotted and it would be the Lesser Green. The Greater Green Leafbird is obviously larger at 22 cm when compared with the 19 cm for the Lesser Green Leafbird. Exactly like the Lesser, this bird has an all round green plumage with a hue very close to that of the leaves in the forest. It has a black face and a black "Bib" over its throat. The purple-blue malar stripe [seen in pix no.3 below] suppose to be diagnostic but hardly visible most of the time. Confirmed ID and making differentiation with the Lesser Green Leafbird is often assisted by the female nearby that has a yellow bib and a prominent yellow eye ring. This is most probably done when the pictures are downloaded and carefully studied.

 Distribution :-  The bird is native in the Greater Sundas.
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a lowland forest bird.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Green Leafbirds, both Lesser and Greater are very common forest bird in the lowland. Told by the frequent calls and its presence in most forested patch. The main problem would be making out the birds mingled with green vegetation and confirming whether the bird is Greater or Lesser Green Leafbird.
Record of bird's call:-    and Video:-

female Green Leafbird  # 1

female Green Leafbird  # 2

Greater Green Leafbird # 3

female Green Leafbird  # 4

female Green Leafbird  # 5

female Green Leafbird # 6

female Green Leafbird  # 7

female Green Leafbird  # 8

female Green Leafbird # 9

Greater Green Leafbird  # 10

female Green Leafbird  # 11

female Green Leafbird # 12

female Green Leafbird  # 16

female Green Leafbird  # 17

Greater Green Leafbird # 18

Greater Green Leafbird  # 19

female Green Leafbird  # 20

Greater Green Leafbird # 21

 My personal jottings on the Greater Green Leafbird :-

The Greater Green Leafbird much larger at 22 cm is one of the largest of all the Green Leafbirds. At a glance both birds have the same diagnostic markings, except for the subtle differences which are shown by the different pictures. In actual situation, the academic size is very helpful which is difficult to interpret when the bird stands alone but when both birds are foraging side by side on the same tree, the differences in size is so obvious. For this Greater, The crucial points in differentiating it from the Lesser Green Leafbird, is that the bird beside being larger also has a stout bill. The male has a purple malar band though not all male bird has this feature.

I find that all these hints do not help much in the field. The birds are moving and at angle that doesn't allow time to ascertain these minute features. Then anxiously, spotting the female accompanying may help. Opportunity like that too, do not come easy. Only at home together with the photographs obtained from the fields, than these information are extremely useful. So back to the time in the field, it is always good that most times a female do accompany the male. Then look at the female. The female has strong yellow shaded throat and also prominent eye-ring. These features are shown in some pictures below.

This is a lowland forest birds preferring those habitats with hills slopes and there is no need to mention names of places as they could be seen in any forested environment. Well same spots and trees that the Lesser Green Leafbirds visits.



4. Lesser Green Leafbird  Chloropsis cyanopogon


 Size & diagnostic markings:- 18 Cm. Sighting of this bird is done by following the calls and surprisingly, they are every where in the deep forest edges. The Lesser Green Leafbird has all the features as the Greater Green Leafbird while it is only 18 cm long. The important point to look for may perhaps the yellow forehead. The yellow should extend to become a thin border around the black bib, but for the sub-species in our country, this feature is not obvious.

 Distribution :-  This Leafbird is resident in the Islands of Sumatra and Borneo
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a lowland forest bird, normally seen at forest edge.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- This is a very common bird which appears in almost all lowland forest. Not aware of its where about on the spot as it is normally in middle to upper storey and the bird well camouflaged among the green foliage.
Record of bird's call:-    and Videos:-  

Lesser Green Leafbird  # 1

Lesser Green Leafbird  # 2

Lesser Green Leafbird # 3

female Green Leafbird  # 4

female Green Leafbird  # 5

female Green Leafbird  # 6

Lesser Green Leafbird  # 7

Lesser Green Leafbird  # 8

Lesser Green Leafbird  # 9

female Green Leafbird  # 10

female Green Leafbird  # 11

female Green Leafbird  # 12

female Green Leafbird  # 16

female Green Leafbird  # 17

Lesser Green Leafbird  # 18

Lesser Green Leafbird  # 19

Lesser Green Leafbird  # 20

female Green Leafbird  # 21

 My personal jottings on the Lesser Green leafbird :-

The Lesser Green Leafbird measuring in at 18 cm is one of the 2 smaller Green Leafbirds. The size for this as I mentioned earlier used as a main diagnostic markings is useful, only if there are 2 different birds available in the same vicinity for comparison.

But first, this bird comes from the Islands of Borneo and Sumatra and of course by now a resident of Malaysia. the habitat preferred is close to that adopted by the Greater Green Leafbird. This bird prefer more of the forest edge and open areas. So those in well wooded areas are more likely to be the choice of the Greater Green while those jungle with sparse forest, the Green Leafbird encountered would  more likely be the Lesser Green.

I have seen for example in the Ampang Recreation Forest Park, a thickly wooded hill slope and with a park entrance among secondary forest. Both species were present at the same time.

Actually I am at ease with ID for this bird as I assumed that all green bird with a black throat is the Lesser. They are more common and chances of meeting up with them is higher. Only at home, when I subsequently discover the error in determining while in the field, then it is a bonus for me that once again I get more pictures of the Greater Green Leafbirds. Anyway for differentiation, the subtle points to note for the Lesser Green, would be the slimmer bill, the yellowish tinged forehead on the male, there seems to be subtle border to the black bib for the male and the absence of a blue shoulder patch.


5. Orange-bellied Leafbirds  Chloropsis hardwickii malayana


 Size & diagnostic markings:- 20 Cm. When the male bird is present, in most instances, this bird forages in pair. Then making an ID immediately is very easy. The Orange-bellied Leafbird is as expected is green on the upper part with a deep bluish-purple patch on the outer wings feathers. Most striking would be the under part for the male bird is yellowish orange. The black bib on the throat area extends broadly to the upper breast. In our sub-species, very obvious would be the purplish-blue submoustachial stripe. Otherwise using the female bird to make an ID without the male bird around is again a guess work.

 Distribution :-  This is a bird from the India sub-continent as  well Southern China
 Habitats & preferences:- The bird prefers sub-montane climate and can still be found in the montane environment
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- The bird is most common in the forest around Awana and also up in Gunong Ulu Kali. This is also a common bird in Frasers Hills and Maxwell Hills.
Videos:- with calls juvenile female
Record of bird's calls:-   

Orange-bellied Leafbird  # 1

Orange-bellied Leafbird  # 2

Orange-bellied Leafbird  # 3

Orange-bellied Leafbird  # 4

Orange-bellied Leafbird  # 5

Orange-bellied Leafbird  # 6

Orange-bellied Leafbird  # 7

sub-adult Leafbird  # 8

sub-adult  Leafbird  # 9

sub-adult  Leafbird  # 10

female  # 11

female  # 12

Orange-bellied Leafbird  # 16

Orange-bellied Leafbird  # 17

Orange-bellied Leafbird  # 18

Orange-bellied Leafbird  # 19

sub-adult  Leafbird  # 20

sub-adult  Leafbird  # 21

 My personal jottings Orange-bellied Leafbird :-

This is another smaller Green Leafbird at 20 cm. The bird originates from the highlands in North-eastern India and the areas of South China. This is a forest bird of the sub-montane to the montane region. Hence commonly seen in the forest of Awana to the summit of Genting Highlands, so would the areas of all hill resorts in peninsula.

This is a noisy bird that would be chirping away continuously. I consider this to be the most colorful Green Leafbird. As with all Green Leafbirds, the female is plain green with virtually undetectable alien shade.

The pictures shown above are interesting as there are illustration of the young birds the various stages of being a juvenile to sub-adult. Of course the female birds are included


Among the whole lot of birds shown, only the Lesser and the Greater Green Leafbirds have plain colors and also presented some problems to spot. The male species of the remaining 2 Leafbirds are colorful and with the vibrant tones on their bodies, it is easier to weed out the birds among a field of green.

Most species with the exception of the Golden-fronted are plentiful in Malaysia and among the first birds to be spotted in the forest edges. As common as Yellow-vented Bulbul in our backyards, Leafbirds are encountered readily i.e  if you can spot their whereabouts.

The only bird which belong to this same family and excluded from this group of greenish shaded bird would be the Asian Fairy Bluebird.