Asian Barbets

 

Bearded Barbet
Bearded Barbet
(Lybius dubius dubius)
Photo: Ben Vandenbroek
Coppersmith Barbet
Coppersmith Barbet
(Megalaima haemacephala)
Photo: Tan Chin Tong
Fire-tufted Barbet
Fire-tufted Barbet
(Psilopogon pyrolophus)
Photo: Christian Artuso

 

Megalainidae - The Asian Barbets

There are 26 species of Asian Barbets that span from India west to the Philippines.  All are lowland forest or cloud forest inhabitants except for the Coppersmith Barbet which prefers a semi-open to open habitat.

Barbets

Barbets are small, stocky-bodied birds with rather large heads which gives the appearance of a stubby neck.  The majority of barbets are multicolored in striking plumage.  The Asian and American species are predominantly green with red, blue and yellow markings, usually around the head.  African barbets are mainly yellow, black or red and are heavily spotted or streaked.  Their bills are stout and have bristles or tufts of feathers that lay forward over the nares, gape and chin region of the face.  They possess zygodactylous toes (two forward and two backward) and with the exception of three species are arboreal.

There are 84 species in 11 genera.

Range of the Barbets

 

 

In Africa: south of the Sahara.

In Asia: India, Sri Lanka, SE Asia, Philippines, Java, Bali, Borneo,

In Central and South America: Panama, Costa Rica and NW South America.
Status in the Wild

The IUCN Red List 2001 Shows:

White-mantled Barbet Endangered
Five-colored Barbet   Near Threatened
Orange-fronted Barbet Near Threatened
Scarlet-banded Barbet Vulnerable

Diet

Fruits, berries, buds, flowers, nectar, insects; larger species such as the lineated barbet have been known to consume tree frogs, lizards and even other smaller birds.  Certain genera may be more frugivorous or insectivorous. 

Courtship and Egglaying

Although certain barbet species have bred in captivity little is known about the courtship process in the wild.  Generally the male pursues the hen; in ground barbets the male will posture and raise its crown feathers while strutting around her.  Duetting is common in barbets though its function isn’t exactly known.  Because it is done throughout the year it is probably a territorial announcement. 

Because the bill of the barbet is not as ‘chisel-like’ as a woodpecker they often dig their nesting holes into softer wood or plant materials; an African species digs into a dirt bank.  They have been known to use old woodpecker holes also.  Generally the holes are usually high above the ground.  The hole is just large enough for a single bird to pass in and out of and is often placed under a branch to shelter from direct inclement weather.

The average clutch is 2-4 whitish eggs.  Both parents generally incubate and both also spend the night in the nest hole.  Incubation lasts 13-15 days in some species and 18-19 days in others.  The young are altricial and possess heal pads like toucans.  Fledging occurs differently within the family; from 20-21 days, 24-26 days and 33-35 days respectively.  Second clutches can occur in certain species.

Movement and Migration

There are no barbets that migrate.  Movement within range can occur.

 

Megalaimidae
The species highlighted below are ones that have a current TAG status. Our goal is to eventually have information on every Piciformes species.

Fire-tufted Barbet
Psilopogon pyrolophus

Red-crowned Barbet
M. rafflesii

Moustached Barbet
M. incognita

Great Barbet
Megalaima virens

Red-throated Barbet
M. mystacophanos

Yellow-crowned Barbet
M. armillaris henricii

Red-vented Barbet
M. lagrandieri

Gaudy Barbet
Same as above

Flame-fronted Barbet
M. a. armillaris

Brown-headed Barbet
M. zeylanica zeylanica

Black-banded Barbet
M. javensis

Golden-naped Barbet
M. a. pulchaerrima

Lineated Barbet
M. z. lineate

Yellow-fronted Barbet
M. flavifrons

Blue-eared Barbet
M. australis

White-cheeked Barbet
M. virdis

Golden-throated Barbet
M. franklinii

Bornean Barbet
M. eximia

Green-eared Barbet
M. faiostricta

Black browed Barbet
M. oorti

Crimson-fronted Barbet
M. rubricapilla

Brown-throated Barbet
M. corvine

Blue-throated Barbet
M. asiatica asiatica

Coppersmith Barbet
M. haemacephala

Gold-whiskered Barbet
M. chrysopogo

Mountain Barbet
M. a. monticola

Brown Barbet
Calorhaphus fuliginosus

 


Fire-tufted Barbet

Fire-tufted Barbet
Fire-tufted Barbet
(Psilopogon pyrolophus)
Photo: Tan Chin Tong

 

  Range of the Fire-tufted Barbet:
Portions of Malaya and Sumatra.

 

Description: 
30cm, 115-139g.  Sexes alike but female lacks the crimson on the crown and it is replaced with a sooty coloration; immature birds are generally duller.

Habitat:
Found in mountain forests, forest edges and crosses into mature second growth forests.

Habits and Diet:
Common singly or in pairs and small family groups to canopy and mid-level but will visit the understorey.  Prefers dense foliage where it postures, twists and probes for food.  Eats figs and other fruits primarily, as well as some insects.  Roosts in tree cavities.

Breeding:
More research needed.  Season spans from February-April.  Nest is excavated in dead tree or limb by both sexes.  Chicks are fed by both parents and fledge after about 40 days where they continue to take food (much more fruit at this point) for only about 7 days before becoming independent. 

TAG Status:  Phase Out

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Gold-whiskered Barbet

Gold-whiskered Barbet
Gold-whiskered Barbet
(Megalaima chrysopogon)
Photo: Laurence Poh

 

Range of the Gold-whiskered Barbet: 
SW Thailand to all but S Malaya, also Borneo and Sumatra.

 

Description: 
24-26cm, 110-181g.  Sexes alike but females mandible appears paler, bluish dusky.  Immature birds have overall duller plumage.

Habitat:
Found in lowland foothills, rare in evergreen forests and swamp forests but also found in cocoa plantations and tall second growth forests. 

Habits and Diet:
More research needed.  Spends most of the day in canopy singing and foraging.  Also observed digging into dead wood searching for food.  Feeds on small berries, seeds, and figs as well as flying termites and lizards.

Breeding:
More research needed.   Clutch size is 2 white, rounded eggs.  Season is February-August.  Lacking research on incubation through fledging.

TAG Status:  Phase Out

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Red-throated Barbet

Red-throated Barbet
Red-throated Barbet
(Megalaima mystacophanos)
Photo: Laurence Poh

 

 

  Range of the Red-throated Barbet:
Thailand, Malaya, Borneo, and Sumatra.

 

Description: 
22cm, 60-72g. Males forehead is yellow, gold-yellow or orange-gold, whereas the female forehead is yellow-green to pale yellow with pale blue towards the nape; also the red on crown is smaller. 

Habitat:
Prefers lower foothills but also present in swamp forests, secondary forest, logged areas, plantations and village gardens. In Borneo: flood-plain alluvial mixed forest, steep mixed dipterocarp forest and hill ridge forest (Short/Horne).

Habits and Diet:
Feeds in canopy and mid-levels but will visit vegetation closer to the ground but stays in dense cover. Sings quite often throughout the day and even into the night. Observed pecking at wood and dead wood frequently feeding in a ‘woodpecker-like’ fashion but without tail braced against tree. Raps on wood in a foraging manner to find larvae, most likely. Eats fruits such as figs, and also larvae.

Breeding:
More research needed. Season is May-June. Nest excavated in soft wood around 6m from ground. Courtship may include feeding. 2-4 white, glossy and rounded-oval eggs are laid. Incubation takes 17-18 days and fledging occurs around 25 days. Young become independent a week after fledging. 

TAG Status:  PMP

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Blue-throated Barbet

Blue-throated Barbet
Blue-throated Barbet
(Megalaima asiatica)
Photo: Courtesy Honolulu Zoo

 

Range of the  Blue-throated Barbet

Range of the Blue-throated Barbet:
Common from NE Pakistan and Nepal, SW China, Thailand, central Laos, N Annam and Viet Nam.

 

Description: 
28cm, 78-103g. Sexes alike; immature birds overall duller plumage.

Habitat:
Frequents montane evergreen forest and deciduous forest, forest edges, secondary forests, village gardens, orchards, teak forests and cities with fruiting trees. 

Habits and Diet:
Forages mainly in canopy but will visit lower shrubs for food items. A very easy barbet to find in its range. Consumes some flowers, figs, insects (grubs, crickets, mantises and centipedes. 

Breeding:
More research needed. Season is from March-July. Courtship-feeding occurs regularly. Paired birds will ‘duet’ and will display. Both sexes excavate nest hole from 1.5m to more than 8m from the ground often on the underside of a dead branch. The entrance hole is 4-6cm and the tunnel is up to 30cm with the chamber being 10-15cm across. Blue-throats have been known to place grasses, wool or plant materials in the bottom of the nest. 

2-5 white, oval, slightly glossed and thin-shelled eggs are laid. Both parents incubate (with one bird always in the cavity) for 14 days. Also, both parents feed and perform nest duties. Fledging period is unknown but probably around the 30-40 day mark. After the young fledge they are only in the area for a short time.

TAG Status: Phase in

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Coppersmith Barbet

Coppersmith Barbet
Coppersmith Barbet
(Megalaima haemacephala)
Photo: Laurence Poh

 

Coppersmith Barbet Range Map

Range of the Coppersmith Barbet:
NE Pakistan, northern India, Nepal, SW China, Sri Lanka, all of SE Asian (except northern Viet Nam), Sumatra, Malaya, Singapore, Java, Bali and parts of the Philippines.     

 

Description: 
17cm, 30-45g. Sexes same but female less bright reds on crown and breast. Immature birds are overall duller in coloration.

Habitat:
Prefers forest edges, teak forests, dry deciduous forests, second growth, plantations, village and urban landscapes. Has moved into cleared rainforest areas.

Habits and Diet:
Forages alone or in pairs mainly on fruits but also insects in tree canopy. Flight is direct (finch-like).  Excavates holes for nesting and roosting and defends them vigorously. Can be observed sunning atop dead trees. Eats a wide variety of fruits including: pipals, guavas, figs, mangoes, berries and also beetles, grubs, mantids and crickets.

Breeding:
Nest hole is excavated in soft or dead wood in the trunk or branch of a tree in September-October, evidently by the female for the breeding season which starts February-March (information collected in India). Upon the season both sexes will then modify and clear nest hole which is located 1.5m-15m off the ground and is 15-80cm deep with the entrance 3.8cm-5cm. New holes are constructed yearly or, the old one is extended/new entrance added.  

The pair may ‘duet-sing’ as well as courtship feed. Apparently pairs do not roost together. 2-4, white with little or no gloss are laid and are incubated by both parents for about 14 days. Nestlings are altricial and are brooded and fed by both parents. Fledging occurs around 35 days. It is believed that the parental care stops at fledging.

TAG Status:  Phase Out

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