The Colorful World of Barbets – 1: Coppersmith Barbet & Malabar Barbet
If you were to pick clothes for yourself in the brightest primary colours, you might think that it may look gaudy but take a look at this bird. Now do you still say gaudy? Welcome to the colourful world of Barbets.
Now, let me tell you about the two smallest barbets found in India. There are other Barbets as well that I will write about in my next post.
This small green bird has a red crown, a large yellow, black framed goggles and a red necklace on a yellow throat with long bristles near the black beak. The front side of his coat is streaked and the back side is leaf green. Legs are red.
Usually one finds these birds singly looking for food or feeding on berries but in the breeding season, I have seen them gather in groups of 6-7 with one of them calling. Perhaps, this is a rare, once in a year event to find partners.
I once found this little bird working hard in hot weather, creating a hole in a dead branch of a tree while hanging which reminded me of a woodpecker at work.
This one is similar in size and looks like the Coppersmith Barbet except that this one has an entirely red face lined with blue. They both live in tree holes and mainly feed on fruit and nectar.
Coppersmith Barbet is found in the plains of India and some neighbouring countries. The name ‘Coppersmith’ comes from the call it makes which, when heard from a distance, sounds like a coppersmith at work…kunk kunk kunk. Malabar Barbet is confined to the Malabar hills of Southern India (from where it gets its name). I have heard that Malabar Barbet’s call is similar to Coppersmith Barbet’s call but at a faster tempo.
One problem that all Barbets face is that the dry branches which they choose to make their nest sometimes cannot withstand a storm. Also the dry branches are preferred as fire-wood.
Even in the Malabar hills, one does not come across the Malabar Barbet very often. Perhaps, their numbers have gone down drastically. So far, I have seen this bird only twice – normally perched on the top branch of a tree. Rapid deforestation may be limiting their food and habitat.