Of papayas and Red-throated Barbets

At 23cm, the Red-throated Barbet (Megalaima mystacophamos) can be considered medium in size as compared to the smallest 17cm barbet in the SEA Megalaimidae family. The male species wears one of the most colourful head gear and is not so commonly seen these days (left). The female is a bit unusual (below left).

My previous sightings of this species had been few and far in between. At times, calls of uneven intervals sounded like, ‘chok-chok-chok…’ were only heard. So it was a treat to observe a pair relishing ripe papayas (Carica papaya) and perhaps setting a new record for this species at Bird Ecology Study Group (BESG).

The first sighting came at 1008hs on 27th June, 2008 of a female clinging on the trunk of the fruit tree and feeding on a ripe fruit freshly pecked into. She did not stay long. At the sight of ‘Tai kor’s (Big brother) – the Gold-whiskered Barbet (M. chrysopogon) approach at 1019hs, she flew off (above: middle and right).

It was a golden opportunity to follow-up on a daily visit to the same fruit orchard while the fruits were going good for the barbets – so was I with the birds.

The male Red-throated Barbet was not seen until the next day and was observed to be a shy bird. His visits for breakfasts were less frequent, his duration of feeds short.

Sequential images showed a one minute breakfast (1011-12hs) on 28th June (above). He was not even near nor kept a little distance within view to wait his turn while Tai Kor had his fill of the fruits first.

Eating ripe, succulent papayas is never a neat affair. These barbets have no qualms about good table manners to goof about as they gorge themselves greedily and untidily.

The following image shows also, the same fruit devoured to a quarter of its size in less than 48 hours. The female was bold, could not resist and stole a quick visit to the papaya at 0944hs. 29th June when Tai Kor was perched looking another way (left)!

The Red-throated Barbets were last seen on 4th July. The ‘After 8’ feeding male spent less than one minute at 0957hs to indulge in his last breakfast before bidding farewell, leaving behind in memory, a colourful frontal image of his bashful self, his red throat and an orange forehead that matched well with the papaya fruit (above).

“Just…… taking a wee bit of my share, Big Bro!”’ said the innocent barbet (left).

Optics used: Fieldscope ED82 +30x + Coolpix P4

  1. Phang The Modern Farmer

    This birds, later I found its name as Red Throated barbet was seen nesting in a hole made at a dead coconut tree in my farm, right in front of my summer house. Never shy to human and easily one can take picture from a distance of 3 meters away from it nest. Of course, you have to obey the rule of not to frightening it.
    this birds was observed eatting ripening papayas, buah kiara and lizards. As today is only a week since she was seen settling in the nest, I am expecting some 20 days or more to observe the hatching of it young chick.

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