Malaysian Birds - Malkoha

Malkohas are large birds with slender bodies, long tail and short  legs. They make up one more group of birds whose feet are zygodactyl [ i.e. the two inner toes pointed forward and the two outer backward].

As for family background, Malkohas are in the same group as Cuckoos. For this larger group of birds generally known as Cuckoo,  World wide -there are 79 species. In  South east Asia - 27 species. The large group can be sub-dived into 3 types of Cuckoos. Firstly the Parasitic Cuckoo - that the name applies and which most of us are familiar with. Then closely followed by the second group consisting of large birds - Malkohas. Lastly a small 3rd group and lesser known birds - the Ground Cuckoo

Malkohas being Cuculidae  from the subfamily Phaenicophinae, have in total, 28 species world wide. They are New world species living in tropical Central and South America but some are found in South-east Asia and Africa.

In Malaysia, though they are forest birds but mostly stay at the forest edge or even open country. Most of them feed on insect but prefer hairy Caterpillars. A food normally avoided by most birds. Malkohas unique preference are common occurrences that I even have pictures on this page to show it happening.

 Malkoha recognized by their long tail, a stout slightly decurved bill, and bare skin around the eyes.

Most Malkoha is described as a shy and restless but sprightly dweller who prefers tall forest canopy. Because of the relatively large size, they can be spotted easily. They do not take flight. Silently they make themselves less conspicuous. But all Malkohas cleverly thread their movements through tangled twigs, creepers and foliage. That classic trait makes Malkohas known for behaving in a squirrel like manner along branches and trying to hide among the thick vegetation. Particularly active in the morning and early afternoon.

Overall their action can be described as slow. Then with rounded wings, they are not strong flier. They rather hop from branch to branch until it reaches the top of a tree. From a vantage point , they will glide slowly and directly to another point. Usually is short distances. While doing so the wings produce a soft hum. Ironically, many a times, I was alerted to their presence by this hum.

As mentioned, they are classified in the same grouping as Cuckoo, unlike the famed Cuckoo's breeding habit, Malkohas have their own nest. A very basic and simple patch of twigs and leaves. The young are taken care of by both parents. Another fact is that the young leave the nest before they could fly. Perhaps this is where they acquired a skill and habit of creeping along branches.

One of the most attractive birds in the Malaysian forest are the Malkohas. Large in size and easy to spot. Very brief flight from one branch to another and then it lies in wait. Happy to meet up with them as they are larger than most birds. Happy they stay long enough for me to get a closer watch. The down side - as they have a habit of staying motionless for a while they tend to crawl and get concealed behind obstacles.  So getting a pictures of a full view bird is not easy. Otherwise they are not in a hurry to stay away from humans.

This is the whole list of Malkohas found in Malaysia and I have pictures of them all, not all but almost.


  1. Black-bellied Malkoha  
  2. Chestnut-bellied Malkoha


  3. Chestnut-breasted Malkoha  
  4. Green-billed Malkoha  
  5. Raffles's Malkoha


  6. Red-billed Malkoha  


The Malkohas really make many bird watcher happy as their presence is an assurance of good bird life in the area. They are large very easy to spot and ID. Except for the Raffles that emits rather faint calls, otherwise Malkohas are quite birds, surreptitiously moving about with being sighted.

Overall, 3 of the birds are fairly common birds that could be easily sighted in most forest edge, while the other half of the birds may take some time to meeting up with them..

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