Wednesday 22 May
Zambian barbet (Lybius chaplini)
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Zambian barbet fact file
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Zambian barbet description
Formerly named after a colonial governor, this threatened bird was recently renamed, Zambian barbet, to emphasize its status as Zambia’s only true endemic species (3) (4) (5). The ruffled plumage of the Zambian barbet is predominately white, except for vibrant-red markings around the eyes, a black tail, and black wings edged yellow. In common with other barbets, it has a stout bill, which it snaps loudly together amongst a chorus of other buzzy, grating notes. Its song is an accelerating, noisy cackle, sung by up to three birds at a time (2).
- Also known as
- Chaplin’s barbet.
- Barbican de Chaplin. Top
- African Bird Club:
- BirdLife International:
- A very diverse phylum (a major grouping of animals) that includes crustaceans, insects and arachnids. All arthropods have paired jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton (exoskeleton).
- A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- In general, a relationship between two species in which one benefits at the expense of the other.
- IUCN Red List (December, 2007)
- del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (2001) Handbook of the Birds of the World Volume 7: Jacamars To Woodpeckers. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
- Spottiswoode, C., Leonard, P. and Mills, M. (2005) Little-known African Bird: Chaplin’s Barbet Lybius chaplini, Zambia’s fig-loving endemic. Bulletin of the African Bird Club, 12(1): 50 - 52.
- BirdLife International. (2007) Zambian Barbets: what’s in a name?. BirdLife International Africa Partnership e-bulletin, 12: 7 - . Available at:
- Roxburgh, L. (2007) Summary Report: Assessment of the Zambian Barbet for Red Listing Purposes. Zambian Ornithological Society, Lusaka. Available at:
- BirdLife International (November, 2008)
- Payne, R.B. (1977) Ecology of brood parasitism in birds. Annual Reviews in Ecology and Systematics, 8: 1 - 28.
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
Zambian barbet biology
The Zambian barbet is a social bird that roosts and forages in territorial groups of two to six birds, and communicates in a variety of elaborate ways. The greeting ceremony, for example, comprises two or more birds engaging in a gymnastic spectacle of bouncing, bowing, hopping, swinging and wing-flapping, accompanied by plenty of harsh cackling (2) (3). Each group aggressively defends its territory, attacking other Zambian barbets, as well as other species, that dare to intrude on their trees (3). As figs form the bulk of its diet, the Zambian barbet has a particularly close affinity with fig trees. However, this species will also eat other fruits and berries, as well as a number of arthropods (2) (3) (6).
During the breeding season, which extends from around August until November, nests are made in holes in the branches of dead or live fig trees. Very little else is known about the breeding biology of the Zambian barbet, except that each pair lays two to four eggs, and that the lesser honeyguide (Indicator minor) sometimes lays its own eggs in the nest of Zambian barbets (2) (3). This is a form of parasitism, common in some species of birds such as the honeyguides, which normally results in the host parents unwittingly incubating another bird’s eggs and rearing its young, often to the detriment of its own (7).Top
Zambian barbet range
Endemic to Zambia, this species’ range covers 76,000 square kilometres from the upper Kafue River to Kabanga in the Kalomo District (6). However, it is thought to occupy only around nine percent of this area (3) (6)Top
Zambian barbet habitatTop
Zambian barbet status
Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
Zambian barbet threats
Commercial agriculture and fuelwood collection are responsible for a substantial reduction in habitat suitable for the Zambian barbet. Consequently, over the past 20 to 30 years, there has been a significant decline in this species’ distribution and abundance (5) (6). Given the current rate of habitat loss, and that in 2007 the population of Zambian barbet was estimated at just 2,587 birds, its conservation status on the IUCN Red List was recently upgraded from Near Threatened to Vulnerable (5).Top
Zambian barbet conservation
Unfortunately, most of the Zambian barbet populations occur outside of protected areas, with the exception of small numbers within Kafue National Park (5) (6). However, following its recent name change and re-classification on the IUCN Red List, conservationists hope to raise the species’ profile amongst local people (5). The priority is to engage them in conservation efforts and particularly to increase awareness of the importance of preserving fig trees. At the same time, further studies are needed to assess Zambian barbet population trends and structuring (5) (6).Top
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© Claire Spottiswoode
Department of Zoology University of Cambridge Downing Street
Tel: Tel: +44 1223 334 466
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