Birds of the world -8 Trogons of the genus Apalharpactes.

Javan Trogon. Taken at Gunong Gede , Java, Indonesia. 

Courtesy of Lip Kee Yap {Singapore}  CC BY 2.0 Generic License.



In this series we look at birds of the world. The species which occur within certain genera take us to all parts of the globe. Here in part-8, we are taken to the islands of Java and Sumatra, Indonesia, to look at two species of Trogons  that occur in the genus Apalharpactes within the bird family known as the Trogonidae that is placed in the order of birds known as the Trogoniformes.

They are birds that have a restricted range in the humid, highland forests. Unlike the Asian Trogons that occur elsewhere the plumage of these birds is generally green above and yellow below.  We commence with the species Apalharpactes mackloti, the Sumatran Trogon. 

A male Sumatran Trogon. 

Courtesy  of Dougii CC By-SA  3.0 License


The Sumatran Trogon  Apalharpactes makloti.

This species is sometimes classed in the genus Harpactes in older books,and it was once considered to be conspecific with the Javan Trogon {see below}. It is a species, as its common name suggests, that occurs on Sumatra in Indonesia. It is a bird of montane forests,generally on the lower slopes.

The male is about one foot {30 cm } long, and has a yellowish green head and bluer under parts. They have a yellow barred wing panel, a deep chestnut coloured rump and a deep metallic blue tail. Around the eye there is a distinctive ring of naked blue skin. {see image above}.

They forage on green catapillers,grasshoppers, stick insects, beetles and other invertebrates and also on fruits. It is thought that the  female lays one to two eggs but information on the breeding habits of this species is little documented. They are not a species of global conservation concern, however, their restricted range could well prove to be a threat in the future.


Illustration of the Javan Trogon

Public domain. Wiki-Commons


Javan Trogon. Apalharpactes reinwardtii.

This is a handsome species which is distinct from the other Asian Trogons by not being predominantly red in plumage colour. This species has bright blue green upper parts, contrasting yellow under parts  and a pale green band stretching across the chest. The tail is of a vibrant blue,while the head is a yellowish green. The bill is pinkish red and there is a distinctive eye ring of blue naked skin.

The sexes are similar in appearance although the female is somewhat duller and has narrower,slightly more buff coloured wing bars. They have short rounded wings and long tails. The legs are short and the toes are arranged for grasping branches. The first and second digits are turned back an arrangement unique to trogons. This species is also referred to as the Blue-tailed trogon and is also found under the genus  Harpactis in some reference books. The average length of the body is thirteen and a half inches { 34 cm }.

Trogons display a remarkable aerial agility which is helped by their long tail and they have been observed hovering for brief periods. This enables the Javan trogon to glean insects and fruit from trees. The bird will then return to its perch to feed . Once the flesh of the fruit has been consumed the bird will regurgitate the seed. They also feed on insects, invertebrates,and green caterpillars. They have been observed taking lizards and frogs,using their powerful bill in order to kill their prey.

Javan Trogon pair. Birds of Asia  by John Gould, Volume one.

Public domain Courtesy of Wiki-Commons/images

Breeding and conservation issues.

As regards breeding it is another species where very little is known. However, they are thought to breed between April and December coinciding with the wet season in west Java. The nest itself has been recorded being found in old woodpecker holes or cavities are excavated within arboreal termite nests or holes in rotten tree trunks.

One or two eggs are laid and are incubated by both parents. The resulting chicks are cared for by both parents until they fledge. It is several more weeks before they become fully independent.

This species has an extremely small range and they are restricted to the montane forests which are decreasing in size year on year. In the last half century  or so they have only been recorded at three sites. However, more may occur in the more remote sites which have yet to be surveyed.

The IUCN * classes this species as being endangered. It is a sad fact that only 5% of the original forest cover now remains on Java. It is a highly populated island and urbanization and agriculture has taken its toll. However, the mountainous forests that remain on the island are now relatively stable.

The birds are now receiving some protection in two large National Parks,the Gunung Gede-Pangrango and Guning Halimun National Parks.

*International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Trogon,Malabar. Courtesy of Birds of Western Ghats Volume 2  Standard YouTube License.


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