Bird of the Week – Week 141 – Crested barbet

The Crested barbet is fairly common in the north-eastern parts of the southern African region, where it favours drier woodland especially areas with plenty of acacias. They also seem to be quite comfortable in camp sites and in parks and gardens. (Check out our blog about a silly Crested barbet at Kalizo Lodge in Namibia.)

Crested barbet

The Crested barbet is the largest of the barbets in the region, with a length of approximately 24 cm. It has a yellow head, speckled with red and surmounted by a black crest. Underparts are yellow, save for a black chest band spotted with white. Wings and tail are black spotted with white; legs and feet are grey-black; bill is pale yellow with a black tip; eyes are brownish-red. Males and females are similar in size, but are less brightly coloured.

Crested barbet

The Crested barbet’s loud and sustained trilling “tr-r-r-r-r-r-r-r” is often heard before the bird itself is sighted. Both the males and females sing, and on occasion this rather unmusical song takes the form of a duet.

Crested barbets forage mainly on the ground, feeding on termites, grasshoppers and other insects as well as snails, but it is omnivorous and also feeds on fruit and nectar.

Crested barbet

These barbets are monogamous and generally make a nest hole in a dead tree stump or other convenient place, but may also take over the nests of other hole-nesters such as Red-throated wrynecks (Jynx ruficollis). In suburbia they may nest in nest boxes. The female lays a clutch of two to five eggs that hatch after an incubation period of approximately 17 days. Their nests may be parasitized by the Greater honeyguide (Indicator indicator) or the Lesser honeyguide (Indicator minor).

Crested barbet

The scientific binomial for the Crested barbet is Trachyphonus vaillantii; Trachyphonus from the Greek for a “rough voice”; and vaillantii after the ornithologist Francois Le Vaillant who travelled in South Africa in the late 1700’s. I don’t know about the “rough-voice” in the case of the Crested barbet, but it is nice to see the earlier pioneer ornithologists honoured in this way.

Crested barbet

One thought on “Bird of the Week – Week 141 – Crested barbet

  1. Maggiemay

    My delight is to witness a pair of crested barbets taking up nest in a log attached to a tree – I think they only have one “baby” – cool to watch the little one appearing at the hole with it’s beak open and both parents calling repeatedly to it – cannot wait to see it taking it’s first flight- am certain might happen to-day. How on earth do the parents do it – how will it get back to the nest? Dad is going to the entrance repeatedly – the little one has the distinctive crest already – looks like the female – what exitement – have to keep my Yorkie away from the tree – parents gets real upset with him there.


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