Animals

Red-and-Yellow Barbet

by Marcia Malory

The red-and-yellow barbet (Trachyphonus erythrocephalus) belongs to the African barbet family.

It lives in eastern Africa, in woodlands, scrubland and savannah, where it usually forages on the ground near trees or bushes.

The red-and-yellow barbet is about 8 or 9 inches long. It has a long, strong, pointed red bill. It has red, yellow black and white upper parts and yellow under parts. The male has a black crown and a black chin stripe. The female has a red crown with black spots.

Red-and-yellow barbet, photo by Doug JansonRed-and-yellow barbets often build nests inside termite mounds (termite nests), using their strong, heavy beaks to break into the mounds.

These birds eat fruits, and are particularly fond of figs. They also eat seeds, insects, lizards, small birds and eggs.

They are usually comfortable around humans. They will eat food, such as bread, that people discard.

Some people keep red-and-yellow barbets as pets.

The Masai use the feathers of red-and-yellow barbets as clothing decorations.

Breeding

A breeding pair will often belong to a group that consists of the pair and from 1 to 5 "helpers" who help the breeding pair to raise their young. These helpers are often younger birds, but there may be one or two additional adults in the group.

The breeding pair in a group will often sing a long, loud duet, which sounds like the words "red and yellow" being repeated over and over.

The helpers will sometimes join in, singing with the breeding pair for a short while.

Termite mounds are often used as nesting sites.

The barbets dig a tunnel, which is about 16 inches long, inside a termite mound.

They build a nesting chamber, lined with grass and feathers, at the end of this tunnel.

The female lays between 2 and 6 eggs.

Both the parents and the helpers feed the chicks a diet of mostly insects, which provides the newly hatched birds with the large amounts of protein that they require.

After the chicks become old enough to leave the nest, they will stay close to their parents and become helpers themselves, assisting their parents in raising the next brood.