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Semnornithidae

Toucan Barbet
Toucan Barbet Semnornis ramphastinus ©James Lowen Website

The Semnornithidae or Toucan-barbets are a small bird genus Semnornis. This was often included in the paraphyletic barbets but recently usually considered a distinct family.

The Semnornis barbets are fairly large barbets, measuring between 18 and 21 centimetres. The Toucan Barbet is larger than the Prong-billed Barbet and considerably heavier. They possess large, swollen bills and lack strong sexual dimorphism in their plumage. The plumage of the Prong-billed Barbet is orange-brown, and that of the Toucan Barbet is more distinctively patterned with black, red, grey and gold.

They are found in the Neotropics. The Prong-billed Barbet is restricted to the humid highland forests of Costa Rica and Panama. The Toucan Barbet is found in similar habitats in the western montane forests of Ecuador and Colombia. In addition to primary forest they may occupy forest edges and secondary growth. Neither species is migratory, and young birds do not appear to disperse very far after fledging; young toucan barbets only disperse 0.5 km. They are highly social, and may be seen either in small groups of up to five or six individuals, or as singles. They are active during the day and are early risers. The prong-billed barbet sleeps in communal roosts at night in the non-breeding season. As many as 19 birds may roost together in a hole, either a modified nest or the abandoned nest of a woodpecker. During the breeding season pairs roost in their own nests. Both species of toucan-barbet are monogamous breeders. Prong-billed Barbets defend breeding territories from all others of their species. Toucan Barbets, on the other hand, have territories but are helped in raising the young by helpers.

The diet of these two species is made up of fruits and insects. The ratio of the two is more similar to the toucans than other barbets and is dominated by fruits. A 1993 study of the stomach contents of these two species found only fruit. Fruits may be eaten whole, held in the foot and broken and eaten, or crushed and only the juices eaten. Insects are more common in the diet of nestlings, and compose 40% of the food brought to the nest in Toucan-barbets, which may also feed their chicks small numbers of vertebrates. They have also been recorded eating flowers.

According to the IOC there are just two species in this recently split family. They are:

Prong-billed Barbet Semnornis frantzii
Tucan Barbet Semnornis ramphastinus

Family Links

Toucan Barbets Semnornithidae

Family Account

The toucan-barbets are the small bird genus Semnornis. This was often included in the paraphyletic barbets but recently usually considered a distinct family Semnornithidae; alternatively, all barbets might be moved to the toucan family Ramphastidae as a subfamily, Semnornithinae. It contains only two species, the toucan barbet (S. ramphastinus) and the prong-billed barbet (S. frantzii).

Toucan Barbets Semnornithidae

Family Account

One of the prized birds in South America is Toucan-Barbet (left; James Ownby took this gorgeous photo as it foraged in a fruiting tree in the western Andes of Ecuador). Toucan-Barbet, found only in the Andes of Colombia and Ecuador, is one of two species in the genus Semnornis; the other is Prong-billed Barbet of Central America. Both of aberrant Piciformes of uncertain affinities that have limited ranges in montane cloud forests, and together they are known as (small case) toucan-barbets.

Toucan Barbets Semnornithidae

HBW Family Account

Annotated species list

Species Links

Prong-billed Barbet Semnornis frantzii

HBW Species Account

Prong-billed Barbet Semnornis frantzii

Species Account

The prong-billed barbet (Semnornis frantzii) is a distinctive, relatively large-billed bird native to humid highland forest in Costa Rica and western Panama.

Prong-billed Barbet Semnornis frantzii

Cornell Species Account

The Prong-billed Barbet is in a genus, Semnornis, that recently has been elevated to the rank of a family, Semnornithidae. The Prong-billed Barbet is restricted to the moss and epiphyte-laden cloud-forest along the Caribbean slope of Costa Rica and western Panama. Unlike most of the other New World barbets, it has a rather uniform dull tawny brown plumage throughout, with a heavy gray bill, and red eye.

Prong-billed Barbet Semnornis frantzii

BirdLife Species Account

Prong-billed Barbet Semnornis frantzii

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Tucan Barbet Semnornis ramphastinus

Species Account

The toucan barbet (Semnornis ramphastinus) is a barbet in the family Semnornithidae native to the humid montane forests of western Ecuador and Colombia.

Tucan Barbet Semnornis ramphastinus

BirdLife Species Account

Tucan Barbet Semnornis ramphastinus

Cornell Species Account

Toucan Barbet is one of South America's fanciest birds. Found only in western Colombia and western Ecuador, this colorful species is frugivorous and has a cooperative breeding system. The

Tucan Barbet Semnornis ramphastinus

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Tetragonops ramphastinus Jardine, 1855, between Quito and Mount Cayambe, in east Ecuadorian Andes. Shares distinctive bill morphology with S. frantzii, but relationship not very close. Races poorly defined. Two subspecies currently recognized.

Tucan Barbet Semnornis ramphastinus

IUCN Species Status

Tucan Barbet Semnornis ramphastinus

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.