Pictures and description of 6 species from the family of Trogon birds  

Trogon birds

Return to Index page


From the family of Trogonidae

The most sort after and also most colorful birds in Malaysia are the Trogons.

There 39 species of these birds of the tropical forest world wide and 12 of them in South-east Asia. We in Malaysia could meet up with all the seven species of birds as most of them originates from the Islands of Sumatra and Borneo.

 
Red-naped Trogon Harpactes kasumba
Diard's Trogon Harpactes diardii
Whitehead's Trogon Harpactes whiteheadi
Cinnamon-rumped Trogon Harpactes orrhophaeus
Scarlet-rumped Trogon Harpactes duvaucelii
Orange-breasted Trogon Harpactes oreskios
Red-headed Trogon Harpactes erythrocephalus
 

They are medium size birds, much larger than the average Bulbul size, plumb with short broad beak, with weak legs from their diet and arboreal habits. Also note the heterodactyl toe arrangement, the birds have. Though taking only sort flights, the bird could fly relatively fast.

The male and females having different colors with the male being the attraction. Trogons are generally inactive when they are not doing the insect snatching flights and would remain perched for long period of time in an upright posture. This sedated posture could be interpreted as their natural defense against predators for example this habit :- the bird always keep their less brightly colored backs turned towards observers. In the meantime their heads would turn through 180 degrees, maintaining a periodic check on the watcher. Another characteristic of Trogon - they are territorial and monogamous. That's the background as to why the male bird respond quickly to playback.

.  These are insect eating birds but sometimes fruits as well.

Trogons are nice birds to watch and we remember that most Trogons as red. As I do not get the see these birds that often, making an instant ID in the field is not that easy. Take a bit of time for that diagnostic markings to appear. The Orange-breasted Trogon - Yes, as it is yellow as compared to the others having heavy tinge of red. So for this page, I have included some pointers like recognition of diagnostic markings for carrying an ID.
 

In the process of looking for Trogons, there 3 types of behavior patterns adopted by all Trogons.

1] The bird could quietly fly into a nearby position, usually at the back of the person, unnoticed and not making any call. It would stay perched in that spot for some time.

2] The bird may be calling before it is spotted an would continuing calling even though it is spotted

3] The bird is very territorial, mimicking the call would bring the bird from a far away spot and also draws it into the open.

 

 

1. Cinnamon-rumped Trogon  Harpactes orrhophaeus

 

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 28 Cm. The Cinnamon-rumped Trogon is the least seen Trogon. But it has so much similarities with another Trogon that is seen very often. To cut the description short, Shown below would be the comparison showing the critical differences between the 2 Trogon. The head is black and the upper part is brown all the way to the tail. The under part - for the male it red while brown for the female.

Distribution :-  This bird is also from Sumatra and Borneo islands.
Habitats & preferences:- This is bird that prefers dense lowland forest
In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- It more often seen in Merapoh but I had a few encounters with the bird in Perdik forest. Could have seen the birds on more occasions than recorded. But there were times that only the frontal part sighted with no chance to verify the rump. On all occasions, when the rump was not specifically verified, I have always assumed that I had encountered a Scarlet-rumped Trogon.
 
My personal jottings :-

This is another lowland forest birds and one bird that I cannot comment much. Believe me, I have constantly paid special attention and on a look out for opportunity to photograph. Had paid most careful attention each time I meet up with a Trogon hoping that it would be a Cinnamon-rumped and there by giving me more and clearer picture. Unfortunately so far it was a big blank on most occasions. Due to the reasons I explained earlier. My hunt is still on.

 

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

The Cinnamon-rumped Trogon which is rarely seen is very much like the Scarlet-rumped Trogon. First, the Cinnamon-rumped Trogon measures 28 Cm marginally larger then the Scarlet-rumped Trogon at 26 cm. Then the main diagnostic marking would be the Cinnamon rump itself. This picture has the Scarlet-rumped [left] and the contrasting Cinnamon-rumped [right]

Perhaps the other minor differences between the 2 Trogons. The Cinnamon has thicker bills and more pinkish on the under part.

For the female, its looks is even closer with the Scarlet-rumped. It has a darker brown head and darker throat. Those of the female Scarlet-rumped are lighter shade around the neck followed by darker breast.

The places  to meet up with this species so far as I know is limited to the forest in Merapoh which I cannot visit that often resulting in little pictures. Also the reason I do not have enough pictures for posting right now.

 

male Cinnamon-rumped Trogon  # 1

Cinnamon-rumped Trogon # 2

Cinnamon-rumped Trogon  # 3

Cinnamon-rumped Trogon  # 4

Cinnamon-rumped Trogon # 5

Cinnamon-rumped Trogon  # 6

Cinnamon-rumped Trogon  # 7

Cinnamon-rumped Trogon  # 8

Cinnamon-rumped Trogon  # 9

Cinnamon-rumped Trogon  # 10

Cinnamon-rumped Trogon  # 11

Cinnamon-rumped Trogon  # 12

Cinnamon-rumped Trogon  # 13

Cinnamon-rumped Trogon  # 14

Cinnamon-rumped Trogon  # 15

Cinnamon-rumped Trogon  # 16

Cinnamon-rumped Trogon  # 17

Cinnamon-rumped Trogon  # 18

Cinnamon-rumped Trogon  # 19

Cinnamon-rumped Trogon  # 20

Cinnamon-rumped Trogon  # 21

 

2. Diard's Trogon  Harpactes  diardii sumatranus

 

Size & diagnostic markings:- 35 Cm. Among the many Trogon, the Diard's Trogon is less seen. Not only longer but also a bulkier bird. Usually describing the male.  Then upper part is is in dark warm brown and the under part is in reddish pink. Some diagnostic markings - The fore head, throat and upper breast in black. There is a narrow nuchal band in pale pink. [Upper and back of neck.]
Distribution :-  This bird is also from Sumatra and Borneo islands
Habitats & preferences:- Still a bird of the lowland forest. But unlike most Trogon, this species prefers forest in low hills and also stay in the middle to the upper storey. This is a reason that bird is less encountered.
In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- So far the place I saw the bird was in Rengit. These encounters the birds seen was alone. Though at times the partner spotted during the same visit but not together. But in 2014, a pair appeared constantly in Perdik.  They too did show up in Congkak on a couple of occasions.

 

 My personal jottings :-

Having said that, quite a few pictures on this page on the female were taken in the bush near ground level. I also seen a pair in Perdik, which were constantly together for quite some time.

This is one Trogon that we do not get to see often. At the first glance may be mistaken for the more common Scarlet-rumped. Its back is more like that of the Cinnamon-backed Trogon. But look properly for that maroon patch behind the forehead, visible when the bird moves its head. Then the very distinctive  violet-blue orbital skin around the eyes. These are the critical diagnostic markings and lastly the hardly noticed pink band breast band.

One of the lesser seen Trogons and is also low profile bird. Prefers to be blocked from views by choosing perching spots with branches in the middle storey. Notice pictures with lots of branches standing in the view for a perfect shot. Unlike other Trogons, I noticed most Trogon would fly to another tree. Maybe further away from humans or a higher branch. For the Diard's, I noticed that in 2 steps, they would be choosing a branch of a tree on the hill slopes. Then the next flight - out of the vicinity.

 

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

Diard's  Trogon  # 1

Diard's  Trogon  # 2

Diard's  Trogon  # 3

Diard's  Trogon  # 4

Diard's  Trogon # 5

Diard's  Trogon  # 6

Diard's  Trogon  # 7

Diard's  Trogon  # 8

Diard's  Trogon  # 9

Diard's  Trogon  # 10

Diard's Trogon  # 11

Diard's  Trogon  # 12

Diard's Trogon  # 13

Diard's Trogon  # 14

Diard's Trogon  # 15

Diard's  Trogon  # 16

Diard's Trogon  # 17

Diard's  Trogon  # 18

 female Diard's    # 19

 female Diard's    # 20

 female Diard's    # 21

 

3. Orange-breasted Trogon  Harpactes oreskios uniformis

 

Size & diagnostic markings:- 31 Cm. The Orange-breasted is perhaps the friendliest Trogon I have encountered. Coming close to human and also remaining perched for a longer period of time. If you know the right places to go like Bukit TInggi, the bird is easily encountered. The upper part is chestnut-maroon. The head is greenish olive without any characteristic. As for the under part, the upper breast is a heavy tinge of orange on greenish-olive and slowly changing into yellow.
Distribution :-  For a change, this bird do not come from Sumatra or Borneo but from South-west China and the Greater Sundas.
Habitats & preferences:- This is a bird from the lowland forest and also up into the hills reaching height just below the sub-montane climate
In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- This bird was seen most in Bukit TInggi and was never seen in the low land forest of Rengit.

 

 My personal jottings :-

The Orange-breasted Trogon is the next smaller Trogon measuring 31 cm. But the bird looks slim and longish. This Trogon is found both in the lowland as well as sub-montane forest. Seen only in Thailand in the lowlands, but in Peninsula, we have the bird as a common bird in Bukit Tinggi. Not seen moving about in pair but the couple moving about separately resided in the resort area. In Awana, the male moved about by himself and the female not seen often.

Bearing in mind that this is the only Trogon without red feathers. This fact itself is a distinctive feature. The problem I have with this bird is tying to make make out its gender. The male has chestnut-maroon [brownish tinge] on its back while the female has olive-brown [greenish tinged], with different and usually poor lighting condition. Making a quick ID in the field in not that easy.

I have listed below the pictures, some obvious others dubious to illustrate the difficulties involved. It is a good guide to be pre-empted of the uncertainties and be better prepared with strategies to do ID..

 

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

Orange-breasted  Trogon  # 1

Orange-breasted   Trogon  # 2

Orange-breasted   Trogon  # 3

Orange-breasted   Trogon  # 4

Orange-breasted   Trogon # 5

Orange-breasted    Trogon  # 6

Orange-breasted   Trogon  # 7

Orange-breasted    Trogon  # 8

Orange-breasted   Trogon  # 9

Orange-breasted   Trogon  # 10

Orange-breasted   Trogon  # 11

Orange-breasted   Trogon  # 12

Orange-breasted    Trogon  # 13

Orange-breasted   Trogon  # 14

Orange-breasted   Trogon  # 15

Orange-breasted   Trogon  # 16

Orange-breasted   Trogon  # 17

Orange-breasted    Trogon  # 18

Orange-breasted   Trogon  # 19

Orange-breasted   Trogon  # 20

Orange-breasted    Trogon  # 21

 

4. Red-headed Trogon  Harpactes erythrocephalus belenae

 

Size & diagnostic markings:- 35 Cm. Perhaps this Trogon do not get close to human visiting their habitats, it is always seen from afar and the bird all these did not appear large or longish to me. It was met rather easily but lately, sighting is becoming rare.  The upper part is golden with dark grey wings while the head is dark red together with the upper breast. The remaining part of the under part in pinkish red.
Distribution :-  The bird is resident in north-eastern India, southern China and Sumatra
Habitats & preferences:- This is a bird of the sub-montane forest.
In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Had seen the bird often in the Old Pump House road and Awana. In Old Pump House road the birds were rather close, meaning within a 100 feet. But in Awana, was always more than 200 feet away. Same goes for sighting in  Frasers Hills, but chances of meeting up are better.
 My personal jottings :-

The Red-headed Trogon can also grow up to the 35 cm in length but generally smaller at 33 cm. In Malaysia it is found in the sub-montane forest. While the bird could grow to 35 cm but in real life most Red-headed encountered were small in size.

There are not that many species of Trogons to compete in this habitats of sub-montane forest. Most encounters quickly re-affirm the distinctive "red-head". Thereafter, with good frontal view confirmed by the broken white band across its breast. [see picture #13]

The problem of ID comes with the female. When a lone Trogon was spotted without the male around. The dull brownish crown is hard to make out with the brown head of other female Trogons. Fortunately too, in this habitat, the only other Trogon that could possibly be sighted can only be the Orange-breasted, the female of which is very distinctive. Very often ID would have to depend on sighting the under tail pattern as seen in picture No.1.

Though not easy to easy but one important diagnostic marking for this bird are the vermiculations on the wings. white for the male and brown for the female as shown in pictures no. 13 & 14.

 

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

Red-headed   Trogon  # 1

Red-headed  Trogon  # 2

Female Red-headed  # 3

Red-headed  Trogon  # 4

Red-headed   Trogon # 5

Red-headed   Trogon  # 6

Red-headed  Trogon  # 7

Red-headed   Trogon  # 8

Red-headed   Trogon  # 9

Red-headed   Trogon  # 10

Red-headed  Trogon  # 11

Red-headed   Trogon  # 12

Red-headed   Trogon  # 16

Red-headed  Trogon  # 17

Red-headed   Trogon  # 18

Red-headed   Trogon  # 19

Red-headed  Trogon  # 20

Red-headed   Trogon  # 21

 

5. Red-naped Trogon   Harpactes kasumba

 

Size & diagnostic markings:- 32 Cm. At last, the last 2 Trogons and also the most seen species. What irritates me most is the way he name are given. One is red and the other scarlet. So I had time trying to get my brain working whether this is red or scarlet. Our brains work into different ways, you may not experience this problem  The Red-naped Trogon is 32 cm long. The upper part - The crown and neck on its back is all black. The nuchal patch is a very fluffy red band meeting the cobalt blue facial skin. back is orange. For the under part - It has a reddish under part and a dull golden-upper part.
Distribution :-  This bird is resident in Sumatra and Borneo Island.
Habitats & preferences:- This is a lowland bird in heavily forested areas
In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Of course, I saw got most pictures taken in Rengit. The place where most Trogons were seen. This species appear as the resident of the area and never failed to appear on each and every trip. Lately, sightings were less frequent after the opening of the entire area. Suppose the birds found better forested area further inside from the road.

 

 My personal jottings :-

In pristine forest other than Rengit, this is another rarely encountered Trogon in the lowland forest.  Again its presence in the area would be prompted much more by its call rather than accidental sighting. It is only after being alerted, then the search begins. cannot be term as co-incidental sighting.

For ID purposes, this time the red band behind the forehead of the male is broader and more obvious than that of the Diard's Trogon. This nuchal red patch goes all the way front to meet up with the blue facial skin which by itself is an important diagnostic marking for the red-naped. The bird is aptly named.

The narrow breast band separating the black breast and the reddish under part is very distinctive and in pale pink while it seen here as light color.

The bird was extremely responsive to calls and co-operative in perching in the middle storey for its pictures to be properly composed.

 

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

Red-naped  Trogon  # 1

Red-naped  Trogon # 2

Red-naped  Trogon  # 3

Red-naped  Trogon  # 4

Red-naped  Trogon # 5

Red-naped  Trogon  # 6

Red-naped Trogon  # 7

Red-naped  Trogon  # 8

Red-naped  Trogon  # 9

Red-naped  Trogon  # 10

Red-naped  Trogon  # 11

Red-naped  Trogon  # 12

Red-naped  Trogon  # 16

female Red-naped   # 17

female Red-naped  # 18

female Red-naped  # 19

female Red-naped  # 20

Red-naped  Trogon  # 21

 

6. Scarlet-rumped Trogon  Harpactes duvaucelii

 

Size & diagnostic markings:- 26 Cm. Finally the last most commonly seen Trogon. I cannot say which Trogon is more common. The upper part is mainly orange - then with a prominent scarlet rump. The head and throat is completely black with a pale blue stripe of skin above the eyes. The under part - it has same shade of scarlet on the rump. So, scarlet is also the main color on the under part. On the female, the shades varies and it is easier to show you in pictures.
Distribution :-  This is another Trogon from Sumatra and Borneo islands
Habitats & preferences:- Found in the same dense lowland forest with the other Trogons.
In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Also seen most often in Rengit and also a couple of other forested park. Funny that both birds this Scarlet-rumped and the Red-naped Trogons could be spotted in the same vicinity but rather far apart from one another.

 

 My personal jottings :-

Then comes a couple of smaller Trogons. First is the Scarlet-rumped Trogon which is only 26 cm long.

While I cannot make a statement as to which Trogon could be seen more often, in my personal record I had met up with this birds more times than the Red-naped Trogon in our lowland forest. To get away from the confusion of the words "red" and "scarlet", most distinctive on this bird is that pale blue trip of skin as the upper lids towards the front. For these 2 Trogons, I feel that the best way to diagnose these bird is through the design of the blue facial skin.

This point resolved,  then as mentioned above, there is the other Trogon with more or less the same features. This is the Cinnamon-backed Trogon.

I have used features on this species to describe other Trogon, Particularly  the Cinnamon-backed Trogon to compare and describe the differences. The Scarlet-rumped Trogon is one species many photographers have pictures of and do not need that much of elaborations.

 

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

Scarlet-rumped Trogon  # 1

Scarlet-rumped Trogon # 2

Scarlet-rumped Trogon  # 3

female Scarlet-rumped   # 4

Scarlet-rumped Trogon # 5

female Scarlet-rumped   # 6

female Scarlet-rumped   # 7

female Scarlet-rumped   # 8

Scarlet-rumped Trogon  # 9

Scarlet-rumped Trogon  # 10

Scarlet-rumped Trogon  # 11

Scarlet-rumped Trogon  # 12

Scarlet-rumped Trogon  # 13

Scarlet-rumped Trogon  # 14

Scarlet-rumped Trogon  # 15

Scarlet-rumped Trogon  # 16

female Scarlet-rumped   # 17

female Scarlet-rumped   # 18

female Scarlet-rumped   # 19

female Scarlet-rumped   # 20

female Scarlet-rumped   # 21

 

 

I hope those little example given would make the initial ID in the field faster and then on to more positive for firm ID. These birds with their sedentary behavior, very proud of the their territory which makes them easy target with bird calls and in great dangers of being eliminated for our bird list. Combined with the rapid deforestation going on every where, this could be the last chance to collect bird pictures of the Trogons.