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Red-crowned Barbet feeding on a snail

on 1st June 2006

Barbets are stout birds with a prominent bill and bright, colourful plumage. Another characteristic feature is the prominent nasal and rictal bristles. They nest and probably also roost in tree cavities, thus they are found in wooded areas with old trees.

On 3rd April 2006 Johnny Wee came across a Red-crowned Barbet (Megalaima rafflesii) eating a forest snail at the Upper Peirce Reservoir forest.

Now barbets are predominantly frugivorous. Their favourite fruit is fig but they also eat other fruits as well. Small fruits are swallowed whole and if they have large seeds, these are regurgitated. Larger fruits are pecked down to manageable pieces and chewed before swallowing. The brush-like tongue helps in breaking down or manipulating pieces of fruits. Some species also eat nectar from the flowers of Erythrina, Bombax and Butea. %pD

But barbets are not exclusively frugivorous. They can be opportunistic feeders, seeking out insects, especially when there is a termite hatch. They also eat insects and other arthropods when available. During the nestling stage the young birds are fed with animal food immediately after they hatch out of the eggs.

There are records of Lineated Barbet (Megalaima lineata) eating bird’s egg and nestling, as well as catching lizards and frogs.

A Red-throated Barbet (Megalaima mystacophanos) was reported by Medway & Wells in 1976 feeding on a 3nail in Ulu Gombak, Selangor, Malaysia. A male bird was seen passing a snail, after much beating against a branch, to a female, in an apparent courtship feeding.

Although the observation by Johnny is not new, it is probably a new record for Singapore. According to Leong Tzi Ming the snail looks like an Amphidromus sp.

Thanks to Johnny Wee for the observation and image, Wang Luan Keng for the lead to the reference and Leong Tzi Ming for the tentative ID.

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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