Thursday, April 10, 2008

Coppersmith Barbet or Crimson-breasted Barbet

Coppersmith Barbet or Crimson-breasted Barbet (Megalaima haemacephala), is a bird with crimson forehead and neck. It is a resident near passerine bird from South Asia, with occasional presence in Southeast Asia. The name barbet refers to the bristles or barbs fringing its heavy bill. It may sometimes be referred to simply as Coppersmith.
The Coppersmith Barbet is a resident breeder practically throughout South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka etc.), and is extralimital in Southeast Asia, with related races in Indonesia and the Philippines. The most common barbet, it is found in plains, foothills and terai up to 200m in dry- and moist-deciduous biotope. It is entirely arboreal (like most barbets), preferring open wooded country and urban gardens and avoiding dense forest.Local names: Hindi: chhoTA vasant, Bengali: chhoTo basanta, bhAgirath, Gujarati: TukTukiyo Sinhala: mal kottoruwA Tamil: sinna kukuruv.
Description: The Coppersmith is brightly coloured, with a black-bordered yellow face with black eye stripes, red forecrown and throat patch. Bill stout and dark. Upper parts are grass green and underparts yellowish-green, diffusely streaked with darker green. Juveniles are duller and lack the red patches. The sexes are alike.
Somewhat larger than a sparrow, it is a relatively small barbet at 17 cm. It is a plump bird, with a short neck and large head. The short, truncated tail is distinctively triangular in flight
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.
Vocalization: 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 1.5 to 2 per second.
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, with much body and tail shaking. Not very vocal in cold weather - a spell of rain or cold immediately silences them, but it is "one of India's most familiar sounds in the hot season"
Diet: Prefers Banyan, Peepul, and other wild figs, various drupes and berries, and the occasional insect, caught in clumsy aerial sorties.
Breeding: Season: November to June, mainly February to April. a little later in South India and in Sri Lanka. Often two broods may be raised in quick succession. Nest: a tree hole excavated in a dead or decaying softwood branch usually on average about 40cm deep ending in a slightly widened chamber. Lays 2-4 eggs, normally 3, white longish ovals, non-glossy, laid on bare wood. Average egg size: 25 mm × 17 mm. Period of incubation is unknown. Both sexes help in the house.

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