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  • Aditya Singh

The Colorful World of Barbets – 2: Brown-Headed Barbet

If you think we are the only ones who can change our goggles, think again. This amazing bird can change the color of the area around its eyes in a matter of minutes.

Let me tell you about this barbet, The Brown-headed Barbet.

This bird is found only in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Even in India, this is found only in forested areas and has a very fragmented habitat. It disappears as one goes eastward towards Northeast India.


This Barbet is mainly green with a brown head. Small white streaks start from the head and extend all the way into the green area half way down the back. The brown color extends upto its neck. There are barb like whiskers around the base of the peony peach beak and, perhaps, that is where the family gets its name from – ‘Barbet’.


Looking for food…

The color of the area around the eyes is peachy yellow to yellow and this color can change from yellow to match the color of its beak (reasons unknown to me). I have seen this transformation in color happen in just a couple of minutes. It does look like it is wearing goggles that it can change.

In the pictures below, clockwise – starting from the top left picture, one can see the color transition. All this in less than two and a half minutes!!!



This is the only barbet that I have seen making it’s nest in a live tree branch unlike the other two barbets I wrote about. They make their nests by carving out the tree holes themselves.

I once found an active nest in a tree-hole. The parent was bringing food from far and wide which included fruits and the occasional insect. First, the parent would sit on a twig, check if the coast was clear and then, would hop into the hole like a basketball going into the basket. On the way out, it carried garbage to dispose and the routine gets repeated in reverse order. The other parent would keep watch all this while. They went about doing this in complete silence. Needless to say, they make wonderful parents.


Picking Berries…


The main threats to this bird are related to what it eats and where it lives.

As this bird makes its nest in living trees (not dry branches) and travels locally to find berries, one of the major threats is deforestation. And the rampant use of pesticides and insecticides is another big threat as it impacts the food it eats.

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