Red-and-yellow Barbet

4th July 2010

Distribution: This species has a large range, with an estimated global extent of occurrence of 1,100,000 km. It is an East African bird, living in South Eastern Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and North Eastern Tanzania.


Status: The global population size has not been quantified, but it is believed to be large as the species is described as 'common' in at least parts of its range. Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern.


Habitat: The Red-and-yellow barbet is locally common in dry bush, open woodland, acacia scrub, grassland and edges of deserts. It is found at altitudes reaching 1500m and seems to avoid moist areas.


General habits: This bird usually lives in groups that include one breeding pair, several young "helpers", and sometimes one or two other adults. Red-and-yellow Barbets can be very aggressive, notably when defending their territories from other groups of barbets or woodpeckers. They are also known to mob hawks or other predators to chase them out of the territory. They are often seen around termite mounds.


Feeding habits: The Red-and-yellow Barbet are omnivorous, feeding on insects, spiders, fruits (especially figs) and their seeds, lizzards, small birds and eggs. They may also take food discarded by people, such as bread, cereal, hamburger, and fruits.


Breeding habits: During courtship, there is allopreening as well as basic strutting displays by the male, who finally brings food to the female. The pair sings together.


Nest: The nest is a tunnel dug in a termite mound or in a stream bank.


Eggs: The female lays 2-6 eggs at the back of the tunnel. The male does most of the incubating.


Young: Once the chicks hatch, all group members help to feed them. They catch insects for the chicks, removing the legs and wings from the larger ones and presenting them to the chicks. After the chicks fledge, they will become helpers for their parents' next clutch.


Call: Breeding pairs sing a synchronized duet that sounds like "red'n yell-ow" repeated many times. While other group members, perch below them, form a chorus, calling, turning in circles, and jumping over each other as the pair sings.


Description: At about 18-21 cm, it is larger than its close cousin, D'Arnaud's Barbet which also lacks the red in the face. The upperparts are spotted and streaked with red, yellow, white, and black, and the underparts are yellow. The tail is black. The Red-and-yellow Barbet has a bright red or orange beak. The female's crown is red cwith black spots, when the male's is all black and slightly crested.


Did you know: The barbets get their name from the bristles which fringe their heavy bills. Some local tribes use their feathers to decorate clothing, and they are sometimes kept as pets.


The Red-and-Yellow Barbet is also called: Barbican à tête rouge [French]; Flammenkopf-Bartvogel [German]; Barbudo Cabecirrojo [Spanish]; Rödgul skäggök, Markskäggök [Sweedish]; Barbetto giallorosso [Italian].