Pictures and description of 3 species of bird from the family of Niltava birds  

Niltava   birds
Return to Index page Robins Flycatchers Shama Forktails Rock-Thrush

The birds from the Muscicapidae family share a number of anatomical features, including the presence of a well-developed 10th primary feather in the wing and adaptations for insect eating. Most birds are mainly insectivores, i.e. taking their prey while airborne. Most birds have the characteristic of broad, flattened bills which are suited to catching insects. Then those species which resort to ground foraging would have have finer bills.

The number of birds available at its broadest base - worldwide there should be 297 species. This family among the largest family of birds, the main sub-group within this family is the Flycatcher.  From the "Old World"  there should be 116 species of Flycatchers. In South east Asia has  a share of 42 species.

Focusing on birds from the Muscicapidae family and those that can be seen in Malaysia, this is the concise list of Bird names with the Niltavas found among them.

1 Bluethroat 5 Robins
2 Shamas 3 Forktails
1 Stonechat 1 White-throated Rock Thrush
33 Flycatchers 3 Niltavas
Yes, the official record from Birdlife International  there are only 2 Niltavas that could be seen in Malaysia but on this page I have added a third species.
Rufous-vented Niltava Niltava sumatrana
Large Niltava Niltava grandis

There is only one Niltava that is very commonly seen in our forest and which is the Large Niltava. This bird with the profile of a large Flycatcher created the impression that Niltava as a species is a fairly large bird. In fact not. Niltavas and Flycatchers are almost alike if Niltavas are to be larger then perhaps marginally. After setting aside the odd sized Large Niltava


1. Large Niltava  Niltava grandis decipens


 Size & diagnostic markings:- 21 Cm This is a very common bird in the sub-montane environment. Would never miss seeing it. The Large Niltava is so named as it is in fact an oversized Flycatcher at 21 cm. The upper part is very dark blue and the under part is blue black with a grey vent. The crown with the sides of neck and the shoulder patch is in bright pale blue in the lights.

 Distribution :-  This bird is native in Nepal, Bhutan, north-eastern India and south western China, and Sumatra.
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a bird of the forest edge in sub-montane climate.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- The bird is common in most hill resorts with sub-montane climate. Then in Ulu Kali and Gunong Brinchang both having a montane climate. They do not appear in pair except during the breeding season. Otherwise only the male in blue or the female in brown would be seen individually.
Record of bird's call:-    and Video:-

Large Niltava  immature  # 1

Large Niltava  immature # 2

Large Niltava  immature # 3

Large Niltava  female  # 4

Large Niltava  female # 5

Large Niltava   # 6

Large Niltava female # 7

Large Niltava    # 8

Large Niltava    # 9

Large Niltava   # 10

Large Niltava  female  # 11

Large Niltava  female # 12

Large Niltava female # 13

Large Niltava    # 14

Large Niltava    # 15

Large Niltava   # 16

Large Niltava    # 17

Large Niltava  immature   # 18

 My personal jottings on the Large Niltava :-

The Niltava is similar in shape and profile with the Flycatchers, all Niltavas are also fairly small birds with the exception of the Large Niltava measuring 21 cm. The bird is native to the mountainous region of the Himlalayas, such as Nepal, India and China and then Sumatra.

Large Niltava is now a common resident of Malaysia in the sub-montane & montane hill resorts like Genting & Frasers Hills. The bird though appearing most often at forest edge is in fact a forest bird. They are inquisitive and for reason unknown are not disturbed by the presence of humans. Besides those well fed birds in Ulu Kali which are poor examples, under normal circumstances, Niltava would emerge from the heavily wooded forest to check on humans straying into their habitats. Stay in the open momentarily and then disappear into the forest again.

Their habits may portray them as a very tame bird which has little reservation with human presence. The bird is perched for some time in the same position like all Flycatcher waiting for insects to pass by.



2. Rufous-bellied Niltava   Niltava sundara


 Size & diagnostic markings:- 18 Cm. The Rufous-bellied is  a rare bird. Only seen in Gunong Brinchang during its migratory season. The bird is a small Niltava at 18 cm. The upper part like the Large Niltava is in very dark blue and the head side with the throat is also having the same color. The breast and the rest of the under part is in dark rufous orange. As usual the crown, rump neck and shoulder part will shine in light blue under the sun.

 Distribution :-  From north-east Pakistan to the belt around northern India and south west China.
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a forest bird of the montane region and here only seen in Gunong Brinchang, not in Ulu Kali.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- As mentioned, so far only one spot that the bird was sighted and that is Gunong Brinchang
Record of bird's call:-    and Video:-

Rufous-bellied  Niltava    # 1

Rufous-bellied  Niltava   # 2

Rufous-bellied    # 3

Rufous-bellied Niltava    # 4

Rufous-bellied Niltava   # 5

Rufous-bellied Niltava   # 6

Rufous-bellied Niltava # 7

Rufous-bellied Niltava    # 8

Rufous-bellied Niltava    # 9

Rufous-bellied Niltava   # 10

Rufous-bellied Niltava    # 11

Rufous-bellied Niltava   # 12

Rufous-bellied Niltava   # 13

Rufous-bellied Niltava    # 14

Rufous-bellied female   # 15

Rufous-bellied female    # 16

Rufous-bellied female     # 17

Rufous-bellied Niltava   # 18

 My personal jottings on this Rufous-bellied Niltava:-

The Rufous-bellied Niltava is like a large Flycatcher and measured 18 cm. Another bird from the mountainous region of Pakistan, India, Tibet and China. The bird is a winter visitor to Malaysia and could be sighted at the montane region. So far very common only in Gunong Brinchang

I still think that the bird is a visitor as it could be sighted easily at one period while other months hardly seeing them at all. I have not gone back to confirm how often this bird do visit us.


3. Rufous-vented Niltava  Niltava sumatrana


 Size & diagnostic markings:- 15 Cm. This Niltava has the size typical of Flycatchers. But has a more rounded body. It is hardly seen and I am still waiting to get the image of the male bird.  Other than its smaller size, the bird has all the features of the Rufous-bellied Niltava. That is dark blue on the Upper part and rich orange on the under part.

 Distribution :-  This is a bird from neighboring Sumatra
 Habitats & preferences:- Again this a bird from the montane forest.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- There are only 2 montane environment that we can access, one is Gunong Ulu Kali and another Gunong Brinchang. So far the bird was sighted in Gunong Brinchang
Record of bird's call:-    and Video:-

Rufous-vented Niltava   # 1

Rufous-vented Niltava   # 2

Rufous-vented Niltava    # 3

Rufous-vented Niltava   # 4

Rufous-vented Niltava   # 5

 My personal jottings on the Rufous-vented Niltava :-

The Niltava is back to the normal Flycatcher size and measured 15 cm. This is a bird from Sumatra and now a resident of Malaysia. This is a bird from the montane area and behave like a ground bird.

It's small size and habits of foraging make the bird hard to spot particularly the female which can easily blends in the surrounding forest floor. By the scarcity of pictures that I have on this bird, I really cannot comment more until I get to see the bird for a few more times.


I am happy that I was given the opportunity to have pictures of the other 2 species to supplement the Large Niltava which should be occupying this page alone.

In bird watching, having a bird list is good to show the way as what to expect and which direction should be heading to complete our collection. The down side is that the list do bring in frustrations at times. Clearly mentioned that the species should be available but not easy to track them down. I still have some way to go to get more pictures of "hard to meet up" with birds.