Malay Whistling-thrush Myophonus robinsoni


Justification of Red List Category
This species is classified as Near Threatened because the results of recent surveys suggest that its range had been overestimated and may in fact be very small. Its population size has not been estimated, but is likely to be small. The species's range is in decline owing to continued habitat loss and degradation, which are suspected to be driving a decline in the population; however, it does not qualify for a higher threat category because its population is not considered to be severely fragmented or to occur at 10 locations or less, and there is insufficient information available on its subpopulation structure. Further research is required, the results of which could make the species eligible for uplisting in the future.

Population justification
The population size has not been formally estimated, but recent surveys by Bakewell et al. (2010a) found no evidence against Collar's (2005) presumption that there are fewer than 10,000 mature individuals. It is placed in the band 2,500-9,999 mature individuals, equating to 3,750-14,999 individuals in total, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction and degradation (Yeap et al. 2007, Bakewell et al. 2010a,b).

Distribution and population

Myophonus robinsoni is endemic to the highlands of the Main range, central peninsular Malaysia, at least historically ranging from the Cameron Highlands south to the Genting Highlands, and probably remaining uncommon to more or less common (Wells 2007). It has been recorded in at least six areas (BirdLife International 2001, Bakewell et al. 2010a, 2010b), with post-1980 records from only four of these: Bukit Larut, the Cameron Highlands Wildlife Sanctuary, Tanah Rata and Fraser's Hill (Collar 2005, Bakewell et al. 2010b). However, identification of the species has been hampered by a previous lack of diagnostic criteria for separating it from the dull southern subspecies of Blue Whistling-thrush M. caeruleus dicrorhynchus (Wells 2007, Bakewell et al. 2010a). A recent study of Myophonus species in peninsular Malaysia confirmed that M. c. dicrorhynchus occurs in montane areas, an aspect of its distribution over which there had been some uncertainty and could lead to confusion with M. robinsoni (Bakewell et al. 2010a, 2010b). The surveys for this study, conducted in 2009-2010, failed to find M. robinsoni in the Cameron Highlands, calling into question the reliability of sight records since the indisputable trapping of the species there in the 1950s and 1960s (Bakewell et al. 2010a). It appears that the only site from which the species has been recorded with certainty since 1980 is Fraser's Hill, where the species was recently trapped and sighted (Bakewell et al. 2010a, 2010b), but more searches are needed and the species may still be present in the Cameron Highlands (Bakewell et al. 2010b), or even northward from there, where there is suitable habitat for it (Wells 2007). In the absence of sufficient data, the population is presumed to number fewer than 10,000 mature individuals (Collar 2005), an estimate that recent survey results suggest is realistic (Bakewell et al. 2010a); however, further research is required.


This species is resident in the ground and lower storey of hill and montane evergreen forest, usually near streams, at c.750-1,750 m. It is very shy, occasionally frequenting quiet mountain roadsides at dawn and dusk. It probably feeds on insects (Wells 2007). Nests with eggs (clutch-size 1-2) and young have been found in March and September, described as massive half-cup structures, which have been found in roots, ferns and behind waterfalls (Wells 2007, Teo and Wee 2009).


There are still extensive areas of intact habitat (Wells 2007), with the majority of suitable habitat in the Titiwangsa Range remaining largely undisturbed (D. Bakewell in litt. 2010). However, the species appears to be threatened by small-scale habitat loss and degradation (Yeap et al. 2007, Bakewell et al. 2010a, 2010b). Conversion of forest for agriculture around its lower altitudinal limits may be causing some declines (Bakewell et al. 2010a, 2010b). Habitat degradation is caused by the sedimentation and pollution of waterways - largely as a result of infrastructure development, pesticide run-off and fly-tipping of waste, as well as tree-felling for construction (largely driven by tourism), the introduction of non-native plant species, the illegal collection and hunting of fauna and flora and the local climatic effects of over-development and vegetation removal (Yeap et al. 2007, Bakewell et al. 2010a, 2010b). Plans for a proposed north-south road linking the hill stations of Genting Highlands, Fraser's Hill and Cameron Highlands, which would have caused considerable danger to the species, have now been shelved.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The species occurs in Fraser's Hill Wildlife Reserve and the Malayan Nature Society Boh Tea Estate Centre; however, it is uncertain how strong the protection of habitat is in these areas (Collar 2005). The Cameron Highlands Wildlife Sanctuary has been degazetted (Yeap et al. 2007).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Search for the species in suitable habitat and where there have been previous records. Carry out surveys and monitoring in order to estimate the population size and rate of decline. Increase the area of suitable habitat with protected status. Lobby for increased restrictions on tourist developments.


25-26 cm. Medium-sized, dark thrush. Mainly dark black-blue plumage. Bright metallic blue lesser coverts and base of median coverts to wing-bend. Juvenile generally sootier black. Similar spp. Blue Whistling-thrush M. caeruleus is larger, heavier-billed and proportionally shorter-tailed, with dull whitish median covert tips and bluish speckles on mantle, scapulars, sides of head and throat. Voice Soft mix of fluty and scratchy notes. Call a loud, thin tsee.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Harding, M., Khwaja, N., Taylor, J.

Wells, D., Bakewell, D.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Myophonus robinsoni. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 08/05/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 08/05/2021.