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Bearded Barbet

Order- Piciformes- barbets, toucans, honeyguides, and woodpeckers
Family- Capitonidae- barbets

Scientific NameLybuis dubuis


Bearded barbetDescriptionA stout bird averaging 10in. in length and weighing between 2.7 and 3.7 ounces. Male is glossy black with white patch on back.  Black hair-like feathers protruding over chin and conical bill.  Red cheeks and breast followed by black breast band.  White belly with wide red streaks or blotches.  Females will have additional black spots on belly.  Bill has yellow grooves on the lower mandible, and two deep grooves running perpendicular to bill on each side of upper mandible (these will resemble teeth).  Juveniles resemble adults except being duller. 


RangeHome Range:  Small section of the eastern half of the tropical region of Africa.   


Habitat Type: Found in arid wooded areas, gardens, farms, and thickets from elevations ranging from sea-level to nearly 5000 ft.  A common characteristic in all barbets is their preference for wooded areas with ample dead branches.


Reproduction:  Breeding season varies widely depending on where a population is located.  Mating typically takes place during May-Sept in the west and Feb-July in their eastern range.  They are a communal breeder, but it is not known if they are polygamous or monogamous.  A breeding pair typically produces 2 eggs.  Three to 4 additional “helper” birds will help with the incubation and care of the brood.  Nests are almost always found in cavities of trees which they excavate themselves.  Nest placement is not specific and can be found anywhere along a tree although they prefer to nest among dead trees.  An incubation time of at least 16 days is followed by a 40 day fledging period.  The chicks are fed insects until they fledge because of the high protein content.


Diet in the Wild:  Mainly a fruit eating bird, but they occasionally feed on insects (especially nestlings).  Examples of trees they feed off of include acacia, baobabs, figs, and various fruit trees found in gardens (papayas, mangos, bananas, peppers, and avocados).  They especially prefer the fruit from fig trees.  It is commonly observed that barbets are wasteful eaters.  They often pluck and reject many fruits that otherwise seem edible.  They thrash their heads from side to side trying to cleanse themselves of the fruit remaining on their bill.  Most of the fruit ends up on the ground rather than being eaten.


Diet in the ZooParrot, parakeet, and cockatiel dry feed combined together with various pureed fruits and vegetables.


General Information:   Most closely related to toucans, the barbets are the second largest family in terms of number of species in the Order Piciformes.  This includes 82 barbet species that are spread throughout the world’s tropical regions.  This bird is a resident species.  In fact, all barbets are known to remain within 62 miles of their birthplace.  This bird is unique in the fact that their upper bill has 2 deep grooves running perpendicular to the bill on each side.  These grooves appear to look like teeth from a distance.  As birds do not have teeth, these grooves are actually a modification of the bill used to easily break and shear open fruit.  The Bearded barbet is similar to woodpeckers when they use their tail feathers as a prop when feeding or when climbing a tree.  The only difference lies in the reduced durability of their tail feathers.  Bearded barbets are good climbers because of the orientation of their toes.  They are zygodactylous, which means they have 2 toes pointing forward and 2 pointing backwards.  While they are excellent climbers and perchers, they are considered weak fliers.  Toucans and barbets play an important role in seed dispersal in tropical forests.  This seed dispersal maintains tropical forests since through digestion, these birds will naturally disperse tree seeds into areas favorable for germination.


Conservation Status:  Not globally threatened, but like all tropical birds, deforestation is of vital importance.  Specifically, the clearing of dead trees may do the greatest harm.  Many times in their southern range, this specific habitat will be cleared away and fruit trees will take their place.  If this happens, the Bearded barbet may partially benefit.  When deforestation is implemented in order to build human structures, the bearded barbet will be negatively affected.  While the planting of fruit trees may be beneficial to the Bearded barbet, it does negatively affect other species.  Increased competition from other birds such as the Double-toothed barbet may have a negative affect on the Bearded barbet when fruit trees replace their natural habitat, however, the future of the Bearded barbet remains bright since most of its habitat is located within protected areas.


Predators:  Snakes, monkeys, squirrels, and mustelids are known to take eggs or hatchlings from barbet nests.  Birds of prey are partly responsible for predation as well.


Handbook of the Birds of the World.  Vol. 7.  Jacamars to Woodpeckers.  2002.  Josep del Hoyo et al.  Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.   pg.195.


Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia.  Vol. 10 Birds III.  2002.  Michael Hutchins et al.  Farmington Hills, MI.  pg. 85-90, 113-124.


Birds: Their Life, Their Ways, Their World.  1979.  Christopher Perrins.  Elsevier Publishing Projects S.A., Lausanne.  pg. 309.