Malabar trogon

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The malabar trogon (Harpactes fasciatus) belongs to the family of trogons and quetzals, Trogonidae. These trogon species are distributed in India and Sri Lanka. In India they occur in peninsular India, Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats and hill forests of central India. The malabar trogon species are sexually dimorphic and have colorful, distinctive male and female plumage.

Malabar trogon - Overview

  • Scientific name: Harpactes fasciatus
  • Species author: (Pennant, 1769)
  • Synonyms: Trogon fasciatus Pennant, 1769, Harpactes malabaricus
  • Family: Trogonidae › Trogoniformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Common Name: Malabar trogon
  • Other languages: Chinese: 黑头咬鹃, French: Trogon de Malabar, German: Malabartrogon, Spanish: Trogón malabar, Russian: Малабарский азиатский трогон, Malayalam: തീക്കാക്ക, Tamil: Theekakkai
  • Other names: Ceylon Trogon, Indian Trogon
  • Distribution: India, Sri Lanka
  • Diet and feeding habits: dragonflies, flies, caterpillars, moths, beetles, grasshoppers, cicadas, mantises, stick-insects; also fruits, shoots, buds, leaves, berries
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)
The three recognized subspecies of malabar trogon are: H. f. fasciatus (Pennant, 1769), H. f. malabaricus (Gould, 1834) and H. f. legerli Koelz, 1939.

Appearance, physical description and identification

The malabar trogon is a medium-sized brightly colored, sexually dimorphic bird. It measures about 30 cm in length and weighs 60 to 65 grams. The bill is bluish. The skin around the eyes in blue. The iris is blackish. The feet are pale blue and heterodactyl. Tufts of filoplumes cover the nostrils.

The male trogon has black head and breast with white ring separating the hood from the crimson belly and underside. The back is rusty or olive brown. The wing coverts are black with fine white vermiculations. The tail feathers are graduated. The female is less colorful, the crimson of the underside of the male is replaced by rusty color. Their call is a musical low intensity 'que' sound.
Indian birds - Malabar trogon - Harpactes fasciatus
Birds of India - Malabar trogon - Harpactes fasciatus
Birds of India - Malabar trogon - Harpactes fasciatus
Indian birds - Malabar trogon - Harpactes fasciatus
Indian birds - Malabar trogon - Harpactes fasciatus
Birds of India - Malabar trogon - Harpactes fasciatus

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The malabar trogon subspecies H. f. legerli is distributed in Northern end of Western Ghats in Southeast Gujarat and Southwest Madhya Pradesh. The subspecies H. f. malabaricus is distributed in central and southern Western Ghats. In Eastern Ghats, they occur in the northern parts, comprising Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha and West Bengal. The subspecies H. f. fasciatus is distributed in Sri Lanka.

Ecosystem and habitat of malabar trogon

These birds inhabit dense primary and secondary forests, evergreen tropical forest and semi-evergreen forests.

Diet and feeding habits

The diet of these trogon species mostly consists of insects like spiders, dragonflies, flies, ants, aphids, caterpillars, moths, beetles, grasshoppers, cicadas, bugs and stick-insects. The Sri Lankan subspecies is known to feed on seeds, leaves and berries.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of malabar trogon is from February to June in India. In Sri Lanka the breeding season is in March and May. These species nest in hollows in rotting trees or stumps. Both male and female malabar trogon excavate the nest with their bills and the nest is lined with wood power.

The clutch usually has two or three eggs. The female incubates in the night and the male takes its turn in the day. Chick hatch out in about 20 days. Initially the hatchlings are fed with caterpillars. Both the parents keep feeding the hatchlings, till they are five or six months old.

Movement and migration patterns

These malabar trogon species are mostly sedentary and are residents in their range. Post breeding dispersal of juveniles takes place. They may make local movements for feeding and breeding. In the Nilgiri hills, they move to higher reaches only in summer.

Conservation status and concerns

The global population size of these malabar trogon species has not been quantified. The overall population trend is considered to be stable. These species have an extremely large range and population. These trogon species do not approach the thresholds for population trend criterion and the population size criterion. Hence considered not "Vulnerable" to extinction.

The fragmentation of the forest cover in central and peninsular India is a threat to the survival of these forest living birds. The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated these malabar trogon species and has listed them as of "Least Concern".

Taxonomy and scientific classification of Harpactes fasciatus
Species:H. fasciatus
Binomial name:Harpactes fasciatus
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
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