Capitonidae – New World Barbets

Black-girdled Barbet Capito dayi ©Sam Woods Website

The Capitonidae or American barbets are a family of near passerine birds of the order Piciformes, which inhabit humid forests in Central and South America. They are closely related to the toucans. They are plump birds, with short necks and large heads. They get their name from the bristles which fringe their heavy bills. Most species are brightly coloured and live in tropical forest. They are mostly arboreal birds which nest in tree holes dug by breeding pairs, laying 2 to 4 eggs. They eat fruit and insects. These birds do not migrate.

While most American barbet species inhabit lowland forest, some range into montane and temperate forests as well. Most are restricted to habitats containing trees with dead wood, which are used for nesting.

Their diet is mixed, with fruit being the dominant part of the diet. Small prey items are also taken, especially when nesting. Barbets are capable of shifting their diet quickly in the face of changes in food availability: Numerous species of fruiting tree and bush are visited; an individual barbet may feed on as many as 60 different species in its range. They will also visit plantations and take cultivated fruit and vegetables. Fruit is eaten whole and indigestible material such as seed pits regurgitated later (often before singing). Regurgitation does not usually happen in the nest (as happens with toucans). Like their relatives, American barbets are thought to be important agents in seed dispersal in tropical forests. As well as taking fruit, they also take arthropod prey, gleaned from the branches and trunks of trees. A wide range of insects are taken, including ants, beetles and moths. Scorpions and centipedes are also taken, and a few species will take small vertebrates such as frogs.

According to the IOC there are 15 species, which are:

Scarlet-crowned Barbet Capito aurovirens
Scarlet-banded Barbet Capito wallacei
Sira Barbet Capito fitzpatricki
Spot-crowned Barbet Capito maculicoronatus
Orange-fronted Barbet Capito squamatus
White-mantled Barbet Capito hypoleucus
Black-girdled Barbet Capito dayi
Brown-chested Barbet Capito brunneipectus
Black-spotted Barbet Capito niger
Gilded Barbet Capito auratus
Five-colored Barbet Capito quinticolor

Lemon-throated Barbet Eubucco richardsoni
Red-headed Barbet Eubucco bourcierii
Scarlet-hooded Barbet Eubucco tucinkae
Versicolored Barbet Eubucco versicolor

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