Tuesdays in Tshwane: Collared Barbet

Happy Tuesday, readers!

Sharing a few snaps of a couple collared barbets. These two might be a mating pair. Does this surprise you? If so, you’re probably familiar with birds, and know that many male birds have more color, or striking variation in color, than females. The generally accepted explanation for this is that males use color to attract females for mating, and females use less color/camouflage, to hide while sitting on a nest.

Africa birds collared barbet
These two collared barbets (middle and top) might be a mating pair.

I don’t know why barbets are an exception, and though I’ve ordered a stimulating academic book on the breeding habits of Toucans, Barbets, and Honeyguides, it won’t be here in time to enlighten you. So please accept the following as common conjecture: since both male and female incubate the nest and feed the young, it seems there is no need for color variation. And since they nest in fruit-bearing trees, their plumage color may not distract from their surroundings during nesting. (If you’re an expert, or a bird enthusiast with great theories, please comment on this below!)

Africa bird calls
Much prettier than their cousin, the crested barbet.

The other interesting tidbit about barbets, told to me by my birding friend, Claire, is that when you hear the call of a barbet, you’re actually hearing a duet between two birds.


Yep. According to ornithologists, barbets never sing solo. Anytime you hear a barbet calling, the song is actually a “two-part harmony.” The call is so fast that it’s surprising to think this is a call and response between two separate birds.

Africa bird calls
Barbet males and females are virtually identical in size and plumage.

Ornithologists who study the barbet and record them can even pick up subtle differences in the calls, signalling either mating, greeting, or territorial displays. To the average listener, however, it all sounds like this…


If you enjoy birds as much as I do, here are a couple of my favorite organizations. One is in the states, and one is in South Africa:

American Birding Association – Great organization if you’re an American bird enthusiast. I particularly like their blog. One of my favorite birders/writers/photographers has a regular column there: Frank Izaguirre. Click here to see his work.or follow him on Twitter.

Bird Life South Africa – Great organization for South African birders. Conservation and education.

Well, that’s it for this Tuesday in Tshwane (aka Pretoria). Have a great week!

Love, MarLa

Like birds? Here are some more posts you may enjoy…

When a Bird Challenges Your Car, You…

Things Unknown But Longed For Still

Squabs and the Strange Poets Who Write About Them

Christmas Birds

Verreaux’s Eagle Owl

The Death of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi

Owl Handling: Just Another Dubai Night

Help! There’s a Boerboel on my Bird Feeder!

March of the Penguins…Column

Southern Ground Hornbill in The Kruger

Christmas is For the Birds

Skink Eater!

African Fish Eagles

Grey Go-away Bird: You Won’t See This in Your American Backyard


3 thoughts on “Tuesdays in Tshwane: Collared Barbet

  1. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend a movie titled “The Big Year” with Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black! If you love birds and “birding” it is a great movie! I know the line up sounds like a slapstick comedy, but it is really a good movie! 5 stars from me!

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