Portrait of a bird: Red-crowned Barbet

posted in: Barbet-To'can-H'guide | 2

Like most barbets, the Red-crowned Barbet (Megalaima rafflesii) is brightly coloured (left top). It has a green body and a striking head colouration of blue, black, yellow and red. The juvenile tends to be duller, with a less defined head pattern, becoming brighter with maturity. The bill is characteristically stout and pointed with long rictal bristles that project from the base of the bill (left bottom). The neck is characteristically short and their feet are strong and powerful.

With such large and powerful feet, stocky build and stout, pointed bill, barbets can afford to be aggressive, and they are aggressive birds – at times even belligerent.

It can also be a noisy birds with a peculiar call consisting of one to two took notes followed after a pause by up to 20 rapidly repeated shorter tuk. Such monotonous call is basically a male territorial declaration. As it calls, it may turns its head to give a ventriloquist effect.

The bird is predominantly frugivorous. Large fruits may be mashed up with the beak and then swallowed. If large seeds are swallowed with the fruit, they are later regurgitated, usually when they are about to sing. On the other hand smaller seeds are passed with the faeces. However, mistletoe seeds may be regurgitated. Figs are a favourite, especially the benjamin fig (Ficus benjamina).

Barbets are generally fast fliers, flying in an undulating manner with the wings making a whirring sound. They are primary hole-nesters. They excavate cavities on dead and rotting tree trunk and branches to nest and roost in. They do not use abandoned nest cavities of other birds like in the case of the kingfishers and parakeets. The reason why barbets rise moderately early and retire rather early in the evening can be because their nests are generally free from pests and parasites that plague secondary hole-nesters.

The different sexes are generally not distinguishable.

Johnny Wee, Chan Yoke Meng & YC Wee
December 2008
(Top image by Johnny Wee, bottom by Chan Yoke Meng)

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