Wild Birds

Malabar Barbets

The Malabar Barbet (Megalaima malabarica) is a small barbet found in the Western Ghats of India. It was formerly treated as a race of the Crimson-fronted Barbet. It overlaps in some places with the range of the Coppersmith Barbet (Megalaima haemacephala)

This species can be told apart from the Coppersmith Barbet by the crimson face and throat. The call notes are more rapidly delivered than in the other species.

Breeding / Nesting

The breeding season is mainly February-March before the rains. The nest hole is excavated on the underside of thin branches.

It takes about 18 days to excavate the nest. These nest holes are often destroyed by larger barbets that may attempt to enlarge the hole.

A nest is made each year. Multiple holes may be made and any extra hole may be used for roosting.

Two eggs are laid in a clutch. They are incubated for 14 to 15 days.

Eggs may be preyed upon by palm squirrels (Funambulus sp.) and they are usually chased away by the adult birds.

Unhatched eggs are removed by the parents.

For the first week, the chicks are fed insects after which they are fed fruits. The chicks fledge in about 35 days.

Malabar Barbet (Megalaima malabarica)

Diet / Feeding

The species feeds mainly on fruits but sometimes takes grubs, termites (flycatching at emerging swarms of alates), ants, and small caterpillars. In Kerala, the fruiting trees were limited mainly to Ficus species, especially Retusa, gibbosa, and Tsiela. When feeding on small fruits, they tend to perch and peck rather than swallow the fruit whole. In the non-breeding season, they join mixed-species foraging flocks.


  1. Blyth, E (1847) J.A.S.B. xvi, p.3 86
  2. Rasmussen, PC and JC Anderton (2005). Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide. Volume 2. Smithsonian Institution and Lynx Edicions.
  3. Yahya, HSA (1988). “Breeding biology of Barbets, Megalaima spp. (Capitonidae: Piciformes) at Periyar Tiger Reserve, Kerala”. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 85 (3): 493–511.
  4. Yahya,Hafiz SA (2000). “Food and feeding habits of Indian Barbets, Megalaima spp.”. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 97 (1): 103–116.

Range of Malabar Barbet (Megalaima malabarica)

Other sources

  • Yahya, HSA (1990) Dietary requirement of Crimson Throated Barbet. Zoos’ Print 5(11):7
  • Yahya, HSA (1980) A comparative study of ecology and biology of Barbets, Megalaima spp. (Capitonidae: Piciformes) with special reference to Megalaima viridis (Boddaert) and M. rubricapilla malabarica (Blyth) at Periyar Tiger Reserve, Kerala. Ph. D. Thesis, University of Bombay.

Asian Barbet Information … Asian Barbet Species … Asian Barbet Photo Gallery


Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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