The five-coloured barbet is a South American forest-dwelling bird with distinctive plumage and a heavy bill (2). The male and female differ quite significantly in appearance, with the male having a bright red crown, a yellow ‘V’ shape on the jet black back, and a white chest turning to yellow on the belly. The female lacks the vivid crown, which is instead yellowish-olive in colour and streaked with black, and has yellowish underparts with black streaks and spots (3). Like all barbets, this five-coloured barbet is a chunky bird, with a short neck, short legs, and bristles surrounding the stout bill (3). The song of both sexes is a low-pitched trill, and a guttural ‘churr’ call has also been described (2).
The five-coloured barbet forages predominantly in the forest canopy and occasionally at mid-tree level, although individuals inhabiting areas of secondary growth have also been observed foraging in the understorey. It feeds primarily on fruits and less frequently on insects, and has been known to form flocks with other bird species when searching for food (2).
Little is known of the breeding habits of the five-coloured barbet, although it is thought to breed between the months of April and July, when it is often seen in pairs (2). The male performs a mating display in order to attract a female, in which he bows the head and inflates the throat, pumping the head downward and forward with each note he sings (2).
The five-coloured barbet is thought to inhabit around 14 lowland sites in central Colombia and northern Ecuador (4). It is believed to be uncommon across much of this range (5), except for at two sites in the foothills of the Esmeraldas Province (Ecuador) and Nariño Department (Colombia) (5)(6).
The five-coloured barbet inhabits wet lowland forests, forest edges, and areas of tall secondary growth, where it spends much of its time in the canopy of the largest trees (4). It is generally found below 350 metres, but may occur at around 600 metres in some areas (2).
Although lowland forest in Colombia remains relatively common, there is currently intensive logging taking place in certain areas, including those supporting populations of the five-coloured barbet. These forests are cleared not only for the timber, but also to create space for palm oil and coca plantations, and with demand for palm oil increasing (for use as a biofuel) the situation is likely to worsen (4). To confound problems, in Ecuador only a few hundred square kilometres of lowland forest within the species’ range are protected (7).
While there are currently no known conservation measures in place for this threatened bird, a number of actions have been recommended. The protection of areas known to contain the species is required, along with studies of its ecology, such as determining how able the species is at persisting in degraded or fragmented habitats (2)(4).
Parker, T.A., Stotz, D.F. and Fitzpatrick, J.W. (1996) Ecological and distributional databases. In: Stotz, D.F., Fitzpatrick, J.W., Parker, T.A. and Moskovits, D.K. (Eds.) Neotropical Bird Ecology and Conservation. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Salamam, P., Donegan, T. and Caro, D. (2008) Checklist to the Birds of Colombia. ProAves Columbia, Bogota, Colombia.
Jahn, O., Robbins, M.B., Valenzuela, P.M., Coopmans, P., Ridgely, R.S. and Schuchmann, K.-L. (2000) Status, ecology, and vocalizations of the five-coloured barbet Capito quinticolor in Ecuador, with notes on the orange-fronted barbet C. squamatus. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists Club, 120: 16-21.
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