Megalaima lineata, the lineated barbet, belongs to the order Piciformes (woodpeckers and relatives), family Capitonidae (barbets), and subfamily Megalaimatinae (typical asian barbets) (Shorts & Horne, 2002). This species has two subspecies—Megalaima lineata hodgsoni (Fig. 1), which is an exotic species in Singapore, and distributed from northwest India and Nepal east towards western Yunnan, south to Orissa, Bangladesh, Manipur, southern Myanmar, South and Central Vietnam to northern Peninsular Malaysia but absent in southern Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore, although Wells (2002) reported that they spread south naturally in Peninsular Malaysia, and the other subspecies, Megalaima lineata lineata, is found in Java, and Bali, both in Indonesia (Glenister, 1971; Jeyarajasingam & Pearson, 1999; Robson, 2005; Shorts & Horne, 2002; Wang & Hails, 2007).Megalaima lineata hodgsoni like Megalaima lineata lineata is about the size or bigger than a common myna (Acridotheres tristis), has a short, heavy-set beige to pinkish, not laterally compressed beak which is used to excavate nest holes (Fig. 2) (Shorts & Horne, 2002). It has short nasal and chin bristles, which do not extend past half the length of the beak. The head, nape and breast are generally cream with light to dark brown streaks, extending slightly to the belly. It also has a distinct bright yellow eye ring surrounded by naked yellow skin, and has bright yellow feet. The rest of the bird is predominantly bright green. A prerequisite for barbet habitats seems to be trees with sufficient dead wood in their branches, which is suitable for excavating cavities for roosting as well as nesting, and brooding can be for as long as 11 hours and which is extended during cool or rainy days (Shorts & Horne, 2002). Wells (2002) has, however, reported the preference of the lineated barbet for living trunks and branches for nesting. The lineated barbet is found in varied habitats ranging from evergreen (including pine), deciduous and teak forests, woodlands, open secondary forest, plantations and gardens, especially when fruiting trees are in season, and where there is sufficient vegetation cover (Shorts & Horne, 2002). In India, with its long history of human occupation and tolerant attitude towards wildlife, some barbets, such as the lineated barbet which is usually confined to forest, do exploit fruiting trees in urban areas as well as orchards, where they can become a pest (Shorts & Horne, 2002). This situation is akin to that in Singapore, where the original population of lineated barbets which were confined to secondary forests, is now venturing out into housing estates, parks and their connectors, to exploit fruiting ornamental trees planted by the National Parks Board (NParks). The lineated barbet, like most barbets, is well known as a frugivore, but generally has a varied diet that comprises mainly of fruits, especially those of figs (Ficus species; Fig. 3), flower petals as well as nectar from Bombax and Erythrina (del Hoyo et. al., 1999). Lineated barbets have been observed to feed on the fruits and flowers of the exotic species—Cecropia species, Falcataria moluccana, and Ptychosperma macarthurii (Fig. 4) as well as fruits of Macaranga, Mallotus and Prunus species (A. F. S. L. Lok, pers. obs.; M. Chua, pers. comm.). Their favourite fruits are however those of figs, which they depend strongly on, especially those of the strangler, Malayan banyan (Ficus microcarpa) and the yellow-stemmed fig (Ficus fistulosa). Because of their predominantly fruit diet, barbets are thus major disperses of seeds of plants and are therefore important in maintaining the health of the ecosystem (Shorts & Horne, 2002). This however, has, negative effects especially when it feeds on exotic plant species such as albizia (Falcataria moluccana), cecropia (Cecropia species), and MacArthur’s palm (Ptychosperma macarthurii) (Fig. 4), dispersing their seeds into forest areas, and potentially extending the range of these exotic plants.
Video courtesy of Jeremiah Loei.
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