Extinct birds of Singapore: Trogons

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Trogons (Family Trogonidae) are a small group of rainforest birds. They are shy and difficult to see, unless you are familiar with their calls. They remain in the interior of the forest, sitting quietly on a horizontal branch, waiting patiently for prey. Once spotted, the bird seizes the prey in a matter of seconds to return to the perch to eat it quietly. Movements by these birds are thus minimal.


The bird moves to the ground only to catch prey. On the ground, it has difficulties walking, as the legs are short, the tarsus (that section of the foot between the heel and the toes) being shorter than the longest toe. However, the toes are specially adapted for gripping branches, like parrots, cuckoos and woodpeckers, as trogons spend most of their time on the branch.

Asian trogons eat a mixture of animals and fruits.

Once upon a time, Singapore was home to two species of trogons: Red-naped Trogon (Harpactes kasumba) (top left) and Diard’s Trogon (H. diardii) (top right). Like most trogons, their plumage is stunningly colourful – a combination of red, black, white and blue. Now, local birders need to travel north to Peninsular Malaysia to catch a view of these spectacular birds.


Morten Strange & YC Wee
February 2008

Images from the book “A Passion for Birds” courtesy of Ong Kiem Sian.

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