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  • Aditya Singh

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.


Beautiful color combination.

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.


Coppersmith Barbet:


Coppersmith Barbet

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.


Coppersmith Barbet at work

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.


Rare Coppersmith Barbet gathering

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.

Malabar Barbet:


Malabar Barbet

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.


Malabar Barbet

Coppersmith Barbet is found in the plains of India and some neighboring 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 Western Ghats of Southern India. The call is similar to Coppersmith Barbet’s call but at a faster tempo.


One problem that all Barbets face is that they choose dry trees and branches to make their nest. But, humans use these very trees and branches as firewood. It takes a lot of time and effort for these birds to drill holes in such a place where predators can’t see them.

Even in the Western Ghats, 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.

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