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Coppersmith barbet

Coppersmith barbet
Photo Information
Copyright: Nagesh Vannur (nagesh) Silver Note Writer [C: 0 W: 0 N: 69] (362)
Genre: Landscapes
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2015-01-14
Categories: Birds
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2015-01-16 5:47
Viewed: 1734
Points: 2
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
Baby barbet today leave the nest, is said to be accidentally jump

Coppersmith barbet

The coppersmith barbet, crimson-breasted barbet or coppersmith (Megalaima haemacephala), is a bird with crimson forehead and throat which is best known for its metronomic call that has been likened to a coppersmith striking metal with a hammer. It is a resident found in the Indian subcontinent and parts of Southeast Asia. Like other barbets, they chisel out a hole inside a tree to build their nest. They are mainly fruit eating but will take sometimes insects, especially winged termites.


This species of barbet is found to overlap in range with several larger barbets in most of South Asia. In the Western Ghats, it partly overlaps with the Malabar barbet which is of a very similar size but having a more rapid call. The red forehead, yellow eye-ring and throat patch with streaked underside and green upperparts, it is fairly distinctive. Juveniles are duller and lack the red patches. The sexes are alike. The Sri Lankan form has more black on the face, more red on the breast and darker streaks on the underside.

During the nesting season, the wear and tear on the feathers can cause the plumage of the upper back to appear bluish.

Within the Old World Megalaima barbets, they are found to be basal in phylogenetic analyses. Most of the remaining Asian species are more recent in their divergence and speciation.

About nine subspecies are well recognized.

nominate haemacephala (P. L. S. Müller, 1776) is found in the Islands of the Luzon and Mindoro in the Philippines
indica (Latham, 1790) is found in the Indian subcontinent form northeastern Pakistan and extends into Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Several former supspecies from India are synonymized into indica.
The remaining are island populations in Southeast Asia

delica (Parrot, 1907) Sumatra
rosea (Dumont, 1816) Java
homochroa Dziadosz & Parkes, 1984 from Tablas
celestinoi Gilliard, 1949 from Catanduanes, Biliran, Samar, Leyte
intermedia (Shelley, 1891) from Panay, Guimaras, Negros
cebuensis Dziadosz & Parkes, 1984 from Cebu
mindanensis Rand, 1948 from Mindanao

Habitat and distribution

Throughout their wide range they are found in gardens, groves and sparse woodland. Habitats with trees having dead wood suitable for excavation is said to be important. Birds nest and roost in cavities.

In the Palni Hills of southern India it is said to occur below 4000 feet. In the Himalayas it is found mainly in the valleys of the outer Himalayas up to 3000 feet. They are rare in the dry desert zones and the very wet forests.

Behaviour and ecology

Keeps solitary, pairs, or small groups; larger parties occasionally on abundantly fruiting Ficus trees. Fond of sunning themselves in the morning on bare top branches of tall trees, often flitting about to sit next to each other. The flight is straight, with rapid flaps.

They compete with other cavity nesting birds and frugivores. Megalaima asiatica have been noted to evict them from their nest holes, while red-vented bulbuls have been seen to indulge in kleptoparasitism, robbing the male of berries brought to the female at the nest.

The nest holes are also used for roosting and some birds roost alone in cavities and these often roost during part of the day. Immatures will roost with the parents but often return to roost early so as not to be prevented by the parents from entering the roost cavity.


The call is a loud rather metallic tuk…tuk…tuk (or tunk), reminiscent of a copper sheet being beaten, giving the bird its name. Repeated monotonously for long periods, starting with a subdued tuk and building up to an even volume and tempo, the latter varying from 108 to 121 per minute and can continue with as many as 204 notes. They are silent and do not call in winter.

The beak remains shut during each call - a patch of bare skin on both sides of the throat inflates and collapses with each tuk like a rubber bulb and the head is bobbed.


Prefers Banyan, Peepul, and other wild figs, various drupes and berries, and the occasional insect, caught in aerial sallies. Petals of flowers may also be included in their diet. They eat nearly 1.5 to nearly 3 times their body weight in berries each day.


Courtship involves singing, puffing of the throat, bobbing of the head, flicking of the tail, ritual feeding and allopreening.

They breed through much of the year with local variation. The breeding season is mainly February to April in India and December to September in Sri Lanka. Both sexes excavate the nest on the underside of a narrow horizontal branch. They may also roost inside the nest holes. Three or four eggs are laid and like in many hole nesting birds the incubation period is not well known but has been estimated to be about 2 weeks. Both sexes incubate. Often two broods are raised in quick succession.

Mortality factors

Adult birds are sometimes taken by predatory species. In urban areas, there are records of collisions with structures including white walls. Pesticide poisoning has also been noted.

BirdLife International (2012). "Megalaima haemacephala". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
^ Jump up to: a b Rasmussen, PC & JC Anderton (2005). Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide. 2. Smithsonian Institution & Lynx Edicions. pp. 279–280.
^ Jump up to: a b c d e Ali, S & S D Ripley (1983). Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan 4 (2 ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 163–165.
Jump up ^ Moyle, RG (2004). "Phylogenetics of barbets (Aves: Piciformes) based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA sequence data". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 30 (1): 187–200. doi:10.1016/S1055-7903(03)00179-9. PMID 15022769.
^ Jump up to: a b c Lok AFSL & Lee TK (2009). "Barbets of Singapore. Part 2: Megalaima haemacephala indica Latham (Coppersmith Barbet), Singapore's only native, urban barbet." (PDF). Nature in Singapore 1: 47–54.
Jump up ^ Dewar, Douglas (1915). Birds of the Indian Hills. John Lane. p. 243.
Jump up ^ Blanford WT (1895). The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma. Birds. Volume 3. Taylor and Francis. p. 98.
Jump up ^ Tooth,EE (1901). "Nesting difficulties of the coppersmith.". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 13 (4): 713–714.
Jump up ^ Ali, Salim & Dillon Ripley (1987). Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan (Vol 4). Oxford University Press. p. 300.
Jump up ^ Aitken,EH (1893). "The habits of the coppersmith". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 8 (2): 326–327.
Jump up ^ Bharos,AMK (1997). "Unusual feeding pattern and diet of Crimsonbreasted Barbet (Megalaima haemacephala)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 94 (2): 411.
Jump up ^ Muthukrishnan,TS; Sundarbabu,Rajeswari (1982). "Feeding habits of Coppersmith Megalaima haemacephala (Muller).". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 79 (1): 197–198.
Jump up ^ Sharma,AK (1993). "Territorial fight among crimsonbreasted barbet". Newsletter for Birdwatchers 33 (5): 95.
Jump up ^ Vijayaraghavan,B (1957). "Accidental death of a Crimsonbreasted Barbet [Megalaima haemacephala (Muller)].". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 54 (2): 462.
Jump up ^ Dhindsa, M.S., J.S. Sandhu, and A.S. Sohi (1986). "Pesticidal mortality of crimson-breasted barbet (Megalaima haemacephala) with a note on its body size.". Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club 106 (3): 93–96.
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Exchangeable image file format (Exif)
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400.0 mm f/2.8
300.0 mm
Flash (off, did not fire)
Location: The Western Ghats are a mountain range that runs almost parallel to the western coast of Indian peninsula. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the eight "hottest hotspots" of biological diversity in the world. It is sometimes called the Great Escarpment of India. The range runs north to south along the western edge of the Deccan Plateau, and separates the plateau from a narrow coastal plain, called Konkan, along the Arabian Sea. A total of thirty nine properties including national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forests were designated as world heritage sites - twenty in Kerala, ten in Karnataka, five in Tamil Nadu and four in Maharashtra.

The range starts near the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra, south of the Tapti river, and runs approximately 1,600 km (990 mi) through the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala ending at Kanyakumari, at the southern tip of India. These hills cover 160,000 km2 (62,000 sq mi) and form the catchment area for complex riverine drainage systems that drain almost 40% of India. The Western Ghats block southwest monsoon winds from reaching the Deccan Plateau. The average elevation is around 1,200 m (3,900 ft).

The area is one of the world's ten "Hottest biodiversity hotspots" and has over 5000 species of flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species, 179 amphibian species and 288 freshwater fish species; it is likely that many undiscovered species live in the Western Ghats. At least 325 globally threatened species occur in the Western Ghats.
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  • smitha Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 348 W: 73 N: 1165] (4409)
  • [2015-01-16 18:49]

Hello Nagesh,
Nice looking picture of this Crimson - fronted barbet.
There is a small correction. Crimson fronted barbet and coppersmith barbets are not the same. Coppersmiths don't have the blue in their cheek. Crimson fronted barbet is Magalamia rubricapilla. Thank you for the share,

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