Asian - Barbets
Barbets are a family of highly coloured chunky looking birds, who are primarily green in colour. They have thick stout bills, which they use to excavate their nesting holes. They have short rounded wings and stubby tails. Almost exclusively arboreal, they favour the canopy of fruiting trees where several species can often be seen feeding together. We have ten different species of these delightful birds in our part of the world.
The Blue-throated Barbet (Megalaima asiatica) 28cm, our bird of the month, is found in the Himalayas, NE India and Bangladesh. Its blue face and throat along with a red forehead and black band across the crown are clues to its identification. It prefers open forests, orchards and groves. It is the dominant species around Calcutta. The call is a repeated kutoorrook.
Amongst the bigger Barbets, it is the Brown-headed Barbet (Megaliama zeylanica) 27cm, which has the largest distribution in India stretching from Himachal through Central Nepal up to West Bengal and south through the Peninsula into Sri Lanka. Mostly green in colour it has a stout Orange Bill and a bare patch around the eyes.
The similar Lineated Barbet (Megaliama lineata) 28cm, of the Himalayas, E and NE India is distinguished from the Brown-headed by bold white streaking on head, upper mantle and breast extends to the centre of the belly. The brown headed has finer streaking which is absent in the belly.
Lineated Barbet - Otto Pfister
Another barbet with a large distribution is the Coppersmith Barbet (Megaliama haemacephala) 17cm. This small brightly coloured barbet has a crimson forehead and patch on breast. . It has yellow patches on and above and below the eye, a yellow throat and dark streaks on its belly and flanks. The legs and feet are a bright red. A loud repetitive tuk, tuk, tuk is reminiscent of a smith beating on metal and is one of the most enduring sounds of the region. The Crimson-throated Barbet (Megaliama rubricappila) 17cm, of the
Coppersmith Barbet - Otto Pfister
Western Ghats and Sri Lanka, is distinguished from the Coppersmith by its crimson cheeks, throat and breast. It also has a diffused blue band down the sides of its head and breast.
The White-cheeked Barbet (Megaliama viridis) 23cm, familiar to bird-watchers from South India, is a green and brown medium sized barbet with a prominent white cheek patch and white spots on the underparts. It often climbs branches and trunks of trees like a woodpecker and is seen in wooded areas in towns and villages.
Great Barbet - Otto Pfister
The largest of the barbets is the multi-coloured Great Barbet (Megaliama virens) 33cm, of the Himalayas, NE India and Bangladesh. It has a large yellow bill and blue head, brown breast and mantle. The under-parts are streaked olive and yellow and the under-tail coverts are red. One of the enduring sounds of the north and north-eastern hill stations is the incessant phiho, phiho heard through out the day.
The Golden-throated Barbet (Megaliama franklinii) 23cm and the Blue-eared Barbet (Megaliama australis) 17cm are confined to the North-east and Bangladesh. While the Yellow-fronted Barbet (Megaliama flavifrons) 21cm is endemic to Sri Lanka.