Broadbills -Eurylaiminae

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As the name suggests, these are birds with very conspicuous bills. Short & broad. More important to note is the ostentatious colors that it has for its bill. The bright colors simple punctuate the profile. Almost all of them, not gaudy, are very tastefully colorful. Most birders would agree with me that they are considered as one of the more beautiful birds.  4 of the species are generally small, just below that of an average sized bird. The long-tailed Broadbill with its tail looks very prominent  as a fair size bird. The exception to this rule is the Dusky Broadbill. This bird is large, dark colored and comes with an "ugly" call as well.

Worldwide there are 8 species - of which 7 species can be found in South-east Asia. We are lucky indeed, Malaysia can be hailed as a Broadbill country. We could easily spot all the species that could be seen in this region.

Green Broadbill Calyptomena viridis
Black-and-red Broadbill Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos
Long-tailed Broadbill Psarisomus dalhousiae
Silver-breasted Broadbill Serilophus lunatus
Banded Broadbill Eurylaimus javanicus
Black-and-yellow Broadbill Eurylaimus ochromalus
Dusky Broadbill Corydon sumatranus

Learn more about my experiences with these birds as you browse through their pictures below.


1. Banded Broadbills -Eurylaimus javanicus


 Size & diagnostic markings:- 22Cm.  This is a very colorful Broadbill. First, the prominent call will ID this species. Then it has a habit of appearing on visible branches, usually in middle storey.  More often in one or two positions before flying off deeper into the jungle. The upper part of this broadbill is dark maroon with large patches of bright yellow markings. It has the similar dull maroon head. The under part has a varying shades of brighter maroon. These marking also appear on the blackish brown wings. The broad yellow band s appears on the wings in flight.

 Distribution :-  The bird is resident in the Greater Sundas
 Habitats & preferences:- The bird prefers thick forest in the lowlands but also appear near sub-montane environment if the area has fairly moist forest such as a stream nearby.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Most commonly seen in Perdik as there are several streams cris-crossing the forest floor. So are many places which are heavily forested. Met the bird on few occasions in the Kiara Hills which is fairly urbanized.
My personal jottings :-

I do not have that much experiences with the Banded Broadbill. I mean, I am still waiting for the chance to watch them nesting or feeding. This bird presence in an designated area is very much marked by sounds of its rolling call - actually calls made by both birds in harmony. A very common sound in the forest. I would say that the frequency of hearing that calls would be as high as 80% of the occasions that I am in the forested area. It created such a lasting impression. When I compared these calls with the series of single note calls by other Broadbills, I would say that the incidence is so high that I would deduced that Banded Broadbill is the most vocal among birds. Could it be a fact that this is one species of Broadbill that is most common.  When you have chance to make a special note of how often you had hear that call, then you may even agree with me. They seemed to be around, always. Very comforting as well especially when you are out on a day of birding trip. Hearing that call means there might be a chance of meeting up with a quality bird for that day.

On the contrary, this bird is less seen when compared with the Black& Red or the Black & Yellow Broadbills. This is another lowland Broadbill in dull red color and marked with prominent yellow patches. The bird prefers middle storey, which means staying rather high on tall trees. That explain the reason why the bird is spotted less frequent when compared to the other two Broadbills. While the nest may have the untidy Broadbill style outlook, these nests too are suspended very high up on the tree. Very much opposite that of Black & Yellow which is at low height and  away from area with water. 

Record of bird's call :-    and Video

Banded Broadbill # 1

Banded Broadbill # 2

Banded Broadbill # 3

Banded Broadbill # 4

Banded Broadbill # 5

Banded Broadbill # 6

Banded Broadbill # 7

Banded Broadbill # 8

Banded Broadbill # 9

Banded Broadbill # 10

Banded Broadbill # 11

Banded Broadbill # 12

Banded Broadbill # 16

Banded Broadbill # 17

Banded Broadbill # 18

Banded Broadbill # 19

Banded Broadbill # 20

Banded Broadbill # 21

Banded Broadbill # 22

Banded Broadbill # 23

Banded Broadbill # 24

Banded Broadbill # 25

Banded Broadbill # 26

Banded Broadbill # 27


2. Black & Red Broadbills - Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos


 Size & diagnostic markings:- 24 Cm. This bird appears much larger and easier to see. It comes out in the open, meaning perched on spots that are near and clearly visible. During mating period in pairs too. The Black & Red Broadbill may appears like the size of an ordinary Bulbul bird while the Banded like that of a Flycatcher, though this  bird is generally the same size as the Banded. The crown and the band at the neck with the upper part is black. The face and the rest of the under part is dark maroon. A long white streak run from front to end of wing then the very prominent upper mandible is bright turquoise while the lower mandible in yellow.

 Distribution :-  The bird is resident in the Islands of Sumatra and Borneo
 Habitats & preferences:- This a lowland forest bird, not forest edge nor open country bird as it stays mainly in the deep forest while its nest is constructed in open view more often than not, above water.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Look for signs of old nests, though these could be those used and deserted by Broadbills, those near to water is likely to be Black & Red, their calls should confirm there presence in the area.
 My personal jottings :-

This is  a very distinctive bird with its bright maroon color and turquoise-blue bill. Very prominently broad as compared to other birds. In actual fact, there is no need for a look out for further diagnostic markings, like the broad black band across the neck or long white streak along the wing. If needed more confirmations, then compare this bird with the Banded broadbill which is also maroon but with bright yellow patches. The Red & Black Broadbill has no yellow marking at all. In the field, both birds are unmistakable and easily distinguished from one another.

This is a very common bird in the undisturbed lowland forest. With rapid development and the fact that this bird do come to the forest edge, it is not surprising to have them very close to areas with humans habitats. Lately I am following through a few couples living in the compound of FRIM  in Selangor. Here there was an endless stream of workers were moving around their chores, yet the birds were constructing nest in the ponds, one after another. The nests, at least 2 of them were destroyed or had fallen down. New one sprung up. I have now seen the fact about the bird's  preferences place with water as nesting sites. The birds were seen in area next to a pond or river. On quite few occasions I had seen nests built in the middle of the a pond or nest over hanging the water's edge.

There had been times in Ampang when the bird was calling near by for long time without being spotted. Eventually, for some reasons unknown to me, he decided to fly out to the open to announcing his presence. That was one of my experiences with the Red & Black Broadbill.. Then more examples. On few occasions, I was sitting in an open area, just meters away from them. They carried on with their nest building chores, bringing in nesting materials flight after flight unabated. So this goes to show that the time even though you may not spotted one yet, who knows there would be one around. Best clue is still-wait for the call. With his calls, you would be alerted that he would spot you first. Just keep your ears fixed for calls. The calls for the Black & Red is a single tone rasp call.

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

Black & Red  Broadbill # 1

Black & Red Broadbill # 2

Black & Red Broadbill # 3

Black & Red  Broadbill # 4

Black & Red Broadbill # 5

Black & Red Broadbill # 6

Black & Red  Broadbill # 7

Black & Red Broadbill # 8

Black & Red Broadbill # 9

Black & Red  Broadbill # 10

Black & Red Broadbill # 11

Black & Red Broadbill # 12

Black & Red  Broadbill # 16

Black & Red Broadbill # 17

Black & Red Broadbill # 18

Black & Red  Broadbill # 19

Black & Red Broadbill # 20

Black & Red Broadbill # 21

Black & Red  Broadbill # 22

Black & Red Broadbill # 23

Black & Red Broadbill # 24

Black & Red  Broadbill # 25

Black & Red Broadbill # 26

Black & Red Broadbill # 27


3. Black & Yellow Broadbills - Eurylaimus ochromalus


 Size & diagnostic markings:- 15 Cm. This is really tiny and prefers the middle and upper storey. When seen it really looks like a Flycatcher with rounded body. It is a colorful bird. The Black & Yellow is nothing like the Black & Red. It is small bird, if not for its bright yellow color is hardly noticed at 14 cm long. It has a black head with a white collar, Under part is pinkish white while the upper part like that of the banded is black with yellow markings.

 Distribution :-  This is another Broadbill from the Islands of Sumatra and Borneo.
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a lowland forest bird most of the time but could be seen in the mountain below the level of the sub-montane climate. This small bird is not seen often as it remains in the middle and upper storey of teh forest.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- This is a common forest bird and should be readily available in many places and when its calls are heard
 My personal jottings :-

This is a tiny bird, measuring only 14-15 cms, its habit is similar to that of a Flycatcher. The Yellow & Black Broadbill would remain perched for  a fair period of time to be admired. Come to think about that habit, are they there sizing up the situation of a human presence? This is a lowland bird and found in primary forest. Again and unfortunately this is one bird that prefers middle storey and canopy. The good fact is that it also do not hide itself behind foliages. While it may takes some effort to spot, but if they are there, you can be sure that they readily spotted. You can judge for yourself that from this series of pictures, most pictures were shot from below. Summing up all points - the birds though small can be quite easily spotted due its bright colors. Like all Broadbills, looking from a position of comfort. They could remain static for a fair period of time. Summing up the 2 points, it may not be wrong to assume that this is the most friendly among all Broadbills.

The Silver- breasted Broadbill that I had encountered, they did not mind but stayed put within 5 meters of my presence. The Black & Yellow Broadbill did not. This bird kept a much greater distance. While it prefers primary forest, they do come to forest edges. I saw in March 2007, a pair preparing nest in the botanical garden in Kepong. The nest was about 18 meters up and set into between a forked branch. This shows that bird now have joined rank with the Red & Black Broadbill, showing less wary for human presence.

The Black & Yellow Broadbill make the similar long series calls like that made by the Banded. Difference for the Black & yellow lies in the style that the series lack of introduction, a shorter series and ends abruptly.

Record of bird's calls :-    and Videos

Black & Yellow Broadbill # 1

Black & Yellow Broadbill # 2

Black & Yellow Broadbill # 3

Black & Yellow Broadbill # 4

Black & Yellow Broadbill # 5

Black & Yellow Broadbill # 6

Black & Yellow Broadbill # 7

Black & Yellow Broadbill # 8

Black & Yellow Broadbill # 9

Black & Yellow Broadbill # 10

Black & Yellow Broadbill # 11

Black & Yellow Broadbill # 12

Black & Yellow Broadbill # 16

Black & Yellow Broadbill # 17

Black & Yellow Broadbill # 18

Black & Yellow Broadbill # 19

Black & Yellow Broadbill # 20

Black & Yellow Broadbill # 21

Black & Yellow Broadbill # 22

Black & Yellow Broadbill # 23

Black & Yellow Broadbill # 24

Black & Yellow Broadbill # 25

Black & Yellow Broadbill # 26

Black & Yellow Broadbill # 27

4. Dusky Broadbills - Corydon sumatranus

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 28 Cm. This bird had loud calls and large nests. It is rarely seen and only when the season for nesting, their presence becomes obvious. Though very large in size, the bird prefers the upper storey and so always some distances away when spotted.  The Dusky broadbill is a large and bulky bird. The bird is nearly blackish brown all round with the exception of the throat and upper breast which is buffy and in creamy color. The broad bills is reddish with a grey tip. The facial skin is dull purple.

 Distribution :-  The bird is resident in the Islands of Sumatra and Borneo.
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a lowland forest bird found in thick forest with rivers. the bird can also be found in the sub-montane environment. Prefers the upper storey and normally detected by its calls.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- The bird is common in pristine forest like that of Congkak and Rengit. It is also a common bird in near sub-montane environment like Bukit TInggi.
 My personal jottings :-

I learn some tricks of birding from Uncle Foo, like many others too. He influenced me into thinking that the Dusky broadbill is an ugly bird. That impression was etched into my mind especially after seeing the whole family in Congkat as my lifer. Large birds and perched very high up. The air and the surrounding were filled with their calls. Yes, at first glance their looks was so un-Broadbill which are known for their vibrant colors. The Dusky Broadbill as the name implies, is dark in color and a very outstanding broad bill to add to that unusual look. It was not until many years later that with the Panasonic FZ 10 camera that I was able to have pictures of this bird in quality I can decipher.

Though odd, the bird has beauty of its own. It is not black but dark brown. What is really outstanding is the beige colored buffy throat combined with a out of proportion reddish bill. Another lowland bird that prefers low hills. They travel in flock and making lots of noises. Not easy to catch them as a chance meeting but need conscientious search. They prefer middle to the upper storey. On most encounter, they would be way out of range for most cameras. But there are exception. This pair in Bukit Tinggi  was residing on rather high ground. In the afternoon, they would come down to almost eye level for "photographic sessions". I have also read the birds are more active in the late afternoon, just before dark. I do not have that much of experiences to verify this point.

But when you mention Dusky broadbill, one place comes to the mind of most birders Congkat, as I mentioned earlier. Now there was another crowd seen in Rengit. This is also the place where the Green broadbill was spotted. My personal experiences showed, they were seen in the same vicinity.

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

Dusky  Broadbill # 1


Dusky Broadbill # 2

Dusky Broadbill # 3

Dusky  Broadbill # 4

Dusky Broadbill # 5

Dusky Broadbill # 6

Dusky  Broadbill # 7

Dusky Broadbill # 8

Dusky Broadbill # 9

Dusky  Broadbill # 10

Dusky Broadbill # 11

Dusky Broadbill # 12

Dusky  Broadbill # 16

Dusky Broadbill # 17

Dusky Broadbill # 18

Dusky  Broadbill # 19

Dusky Broadbill # 20

Dusky Broadbill # 21

Dusky  Broadbill # 22

Dusky Broadbill # 23

Dusky Broadbill # 24

Dusky  Broadbill # 25

Dusky Broadbill # 26

Dusky Broadbill # 27


5. Long-tailed Broadbills - Psarisomus dalhousiae


 Size & diagnostic markings:- 27 Cm. At one time many years back, this is a fairly common bird in Frasers Hills. Meaning, we would meet up with the bird on each and every trip. Then I saw a whole flock of them about 15 birds in the Old Pump House Road. Now hardly could see any in Frasers Hills. Only when the bird is nesting, chances becomes better. With its long tail, the Long-tailed Broadbill looks slender. The bird with a black crown is green all round, deeper shade on the upper part and a tinge lighter on the under part. The lores and the throat in rich yellow and a narrow white collar behind neck.

 Distribution :-  This is a bird of the north-eastern India and south western china, then down to Sumatra and Borneo
 Habitats & preferences:- For change this bird is exclusively sub-montane. In the early days, the birds could be seen in flocks and visiting hills. It is being a long time that the birds was seen in lower attitude. This is a bird of the middle storey and do not need dense forest
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Till now the bird was seen exclusively in Frasers Hills, years ago I have seen a flock of 15 birds in the Old Pump House Road.
 My personal jottings :-

Among our group of birders, we have nick-named this funny but beautiful looking Long-tailed Broadbill, as the "Picasso bird". A gorgeous looking creature with the black cap that shaped like those worn by human and a yellow patch near the "ear". Like most Broadbills, we are usually alerted  its presence in the vicinity before actually spotting them. By their very distinctive high pitch long whistles.

 I like this particular Broadbill as it is larger than most other Broadbills, making it more visible. Then typical of most broadbill, it remains in its perch for a while for good satisfying photographic sessions. Since this is a highland bird and we do not get access to that many mountain top. The good place are therefore confined to Frasers, Old Pump House Road, Cameron Highlands and Maxwell Hills. Now quite a list, but we do not afford to make these long trip often. So, the chances of seeing this bird is curbed to our rare visits.

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

Long-tailed Broadbill # 1

Long-tailed Broadbill # 2

Long-tailed Broadbill # 3

Long-tailed Broadbill # 4

Long-tailed Broadbill # 5

Long-tailed Broadbill # 6

Long-tailed Broadbill # 7

Long-tailed Broadbill # 8

Long-tailed Broadbill # 9

Long-tailed Broadbill # 13

Long-tailed Broadbill # 14

Long-tailed Broadbill # 15

Long-tailed Broadbill # 16


6. Silver-breasted Broadbills - Serilopus lunatus


 Size & diagnostic markings:- 17 Cm. This is the most common Broadbill, but seen only in sub-montane environment. In its hey days there would be 10 nests in Bukit TInggi at its peak, now reduces to 2-3 and well scattered. Also in Awana and Telapa Buruk in Negri Sembilan. Slightly smaller than medium size, the Silver-breasted Broadbill with it bright color is very conspicuous and also the friendliest Broadbill. The upper part is pale brown, while the forehead and under part is grayish white. The black supercilium is most prominent and the wing patch of black, grayish blue and again black wing tip is striking.

 Distribution :-  The bird share the same territory with the Long-tailed coming from north-eastern India and south western china, then down to Sumatra.
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a sub-montane bird of the middle to the lower storey. It prefers dense forest and move about in small groups of 2-3 birds.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- The bird is common in most sub-montane forest but having good population in Bukit Tinggi. Over the years could detect the decreasing numbers of nest built each breeding season.
 My personal jottings :-

The sightings of Broadbill nests, when you see one, it is likely that you would get to see several more. Yes, it gives birders great delight. The nests tell of heavy involvement of Broadbill in the vicinity. Though the nests may appear similar in structure and appearances, the details which also give clues of its owners varies. Being conversant  about the various types of Broadbill's nests, a quick assumption would help us focus on the type of Broadbill, we should expect to see. For example - If they are low usually below 5 meters, then it is likely to be that for the Silver breasted Broadbill. Then if these are hanging from fine branches, think of the Bamboo twigs, then this fact brings you even closer to the Silver-breasted. This is a bird from the sub montane region. Usually a mid storey bird but will perch on quite exposed branches. This will be a bird that you are likely to see in the hill stations.

First something about the Silver-breasted broadbill. When the bird is moving about by itself or in the company of a bird wave, they  looked small, unimpressive and quite often difficult to ID. I could never make out or ID this bird instantly. To me , the whole bird looks like a dull grey blob with flashes of colors. It is only when they are in open view and properly perched, the full beauty of the birds stand out. I think it is a matter how my brain interprets colors.

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


Silver-breasted Broadbill # 1

Silver-breasted Broadbill # 2

Silver-breasted Broadbill # 3

Silver-breasted Broadbill # 4

Silver-breasted Broadbill # 5

Silver-breasted Broadbill # 6

Silver-breasted Broadbill # 7

Silver-breasted Broadbill # 8

Silver-breasted Broadbill # 9

Silver-breasted Broadbill # 10

Silver-breasted Broadbill # 11

Silver-breasted Broadbill # 12

Silver-breasted Broadbill # 16

Silver-breasted Broadbill # 17

Silver-breasted Broadbill # 18

Silver-breasted Broadbill # 19

Silver-breasted Broadbill # 20

Silver-breasted Broadbill # 21

Silver-breasted Broadbill # 22

Silver-breasted Broadbill # 23

Silver-breasted Broadbill # 24

Silver-breasted Broadbill # 25

Silver-breasted Broadbill # 26

Silver-breasted Broadbill # 27


7. Green Broadbills - Calyptomena viridis


First point, this bird belongs to another family group called Green Broadbill. Do not have the usual look of a typical Broadbill. second point, world wide there are 3 species of this type of bird and in South-east Asia, this is the only one


 Size & diagnostic markings:- 16 Cm. This is actually a common Broadbill. The fact that it is very green and tiny, the bird does not attract attention when perched quietly. It seldom calls like the other Broadbill and most heard when it is nesting. This 16 Cm large Green Broadbill  almost the small size as the Black &Yellow Broadbill but it is absolutely a midget. With its complete green color body in the massive virgin forest. it is almost impossible to spot. This is a well rounded bird in deep green with only a small black patch behind the ears and some black bars at the wings. Significant would be the oversize tuft on top of the bill and a small black dot in front of the eyes which is hardly noticed.

 Distribution :-  This a another bird from the island of Borneo and Sumatra.
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a bird of the lowland forest, usually in dense forest. Staying in the middle to the upper storey, its presence only detected through its calls and the fruiting seasons. 
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- This bird is common in most dense forest and is not seen as it is moving very quickly from branches to branches. It was seen both in near to home places like, Perdik and Congkak and then remote places like Rengit and Merapoh. The bird is also present in Mountain like Bukit TInggi.
 My personal jottings :-

A very special type of Broadbill quite unlike the rest - Bright green in color. It is rarely spotted for 2 reasons. This is a middle storey  bird. The few times I spotted them was because they came close to the ground. The second reason why this bird is rarely seen. Once the bird remained still, it almost impossible to differentiated its body shape among the sea of green foliages. I spotted it as it flew to a perch. Then the time in Merapoh, it was performing some sort of ritual dashing from perch to perch with lots of bubbling calls.

In the series of pictures below, see picture #3, you could see an odd situation when the Green Broadbill was doing its act on the ground and among fallen debris.

This is another lowland bird endemic in Sumatra. The birds were seen in primary forest of Rengit, Merapoh and even the nearer home place of Congkak The bird was also recently spotted on Bukit Tinggi, a low hill among tall mountains. That means the bird can be readily spotted if we are more on the alert. 

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

Green Broadbill  # 1

Green Broadbill  # 2

Green Broadbill  # 3

Green Broadbill  # 4

Green Broadbill #  5

Green Broadbill   # 6

Green Broadbill  #  7

Green Broadbill  # 8

Green Broadbill  # 9

Green Broadbill  #  10

Green Broadbill  # 11

Green Broadbill  # 12

Green Broadbill  #  16

Green Broadbill  # 17

Green Broadbill  # 18

Green Broadbill  #  19

Green Broadbill  # 20

Green Broadbill  # 21

Green Broadbill  #  22

Green Broadbill  # 23

Green Broadbill  # 24

Green Broadbill  #  25

Green Broadbill  # 26

Green Broadbill  # 27


Broadbills are colorful and also beautiful looking birds. If they are within the area where bird watching is done, the birds then are easily located. This ease of finding them gives the impression that Broadbills are common birds. On the contrary it is fairly difficult to find the places where Broadbill hang out, not forgetting having the need of prior knowledge as to the timing when they should be around. A good example would be the fact that I am still waiting for more pictures of the Long-tailed Broadbill.

The existence of Broadbill in the area is the evidences of old nests hanging from the trees, left over from the last session or the current breeding season. This search is almost completed immediately as the preferred location are vantage points over road that is running through dense forest. Then in the right season, the calls from the birds would be heard. From the calls, the species of Broadbill available could be ascertained.

Most broadbills are not shy bird, meaning the bird would not feel threatened and fly away instantaneously upon being spotted. On the contrary, the bird would remain still for a while. The main problem would be the small size of the bird and the clever way it chooses its perch. I could feel that they were always very close but couldn't locate them until they decide to leave their safe perch and away to another one further away.