The Black-collared Barbet

The Black-collared Barbet is a bird allied to the Savanna and Indian Ocean Coastal Belt Biomes, preferring woodland and forests. It will however readily occupy open savanna and urban gardens with adequate tree cover. There are around eight subspecies recognised throughout Africa, but differences are based on plumage colour and size differences, so for the sake of simplicity, subspecies and races are not covered in these birding features.

Male and female Black-collared Barbets have similar plumage. The broad bill is black and the eyes dark with reddish iris. The front half of the head, cheeks and neck is bright red with the back of the head and neck being black. On a few birds the red is replaced by yellow. The body plumage and tail feathers are silvery grey. 

The primary wing feathers have a yellow-striped appearance when the bird is perching. The legs and feet are greyish-black. 

Black-collared Barbets are resident birds within their territories and are usually observed in pairs. Therefore, at feeding stations or favourite trees, the same birds are likely to be seen daily. They may roost in small groups and usually inside the hollow cavities of trees. These birds are primarily frugivorous, feeding on a variety of tree fruits and small nuts. They are especially partial to wild figs but will also take the fruit of waterberries, karee, guarris, sourberries, milkwood and jackalberries. In addition, Black-collared Barbets will opportunistically include insects and nectar in their diet.

Black-collared Barbets are monogamous, cooperative breeders. Barbets construct their own nest cavities by digging out hollows in trees. These are often enlarged and used by other birds over successive breeding seasons. Breeding takes place throughout the summer season and females lay from 3-5 eggs at a time. The eggs are incubated by both parents and will hatch after 18-19 days. Both parents participate in feeding the young and may sometimes leave the nest unattended as they forage for food. Fledglings emerge after 33-36 days.  

Class: Aves 
Order: Piciformes 
Family: Lybiidae
Species: Lybius torquatus 
Etymology: Lybius = derived from Greek and in reference to a bird mentioned by Aristotle and Aristophanes.  
torquatus = adorned with a necklace. 
IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Article and photos by: Warren Schmid

Warren holds a Master of Science degree in Ecological Sciences awarded by the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. He has three decades of experience in ecology, conservation science, invasion biology and herpetology. He has worked as a journalist, magazine editor, and lecturer, and has presented talks, seminars, and lectures.

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