Great barbet

   ›      ›   Great barbet - Psilopogon virens

The great barbet (Psilopogon virens) belongs to the family of Asian barbets, Megalaimidae.

The great barbet species are distributed in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, China, Laos and Vietnam. These barbet species have heavy bills fringed with bristles. These barbets are polytypic species.

Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of Great Barbet Distribution & Range
Ecosystem & Habitat Diet & Feeding Behavior
Breeding Habits Migration & Movement Patterns
Conservation & Survival IUCN Status
Taxonomy & Classification Bird World

Appearance, physical description and identification

The great barbet (Psilopogon virens) is the largest barbet, measuring 30 to 35 cm in length and weighing 160 to 300 grams. Both the sexes appear similar.

The great barbet has dark bluish black head with large yellowish ivory bill. It has short neck and tail. The nape, sides of the neck and the throat are also bluish black. These birds have black bristles at the base of the nostrils, in front of the lores and on anterior chin.

The upper back of the barbet is deep brown to chestnut brown with pale, yellow, thin and short streaking. The mid-back is yellowish brown or brown. The lower back is green. The rump and the upper tail-coverts are green with pale yellowish green tips.

The breast is dark brown near throat and pale brown towards the mid-breast. The lower breast is pale blue. The belly has pale streaks. The sides and flanks are streaked. The outer thighs are green.

The tail feathers of the barbet are green with narrow dull brown tips. The feather shafts are brownish black or brown. The undertail is yellowish green with blue sheen. The extreme margins of feathers are darker. The undertail coverts are red.

The bill is yellowish ivory. It is long, broad, curved along the culmen. The base of the bill is yellowish orange. The upper mandible has bluish black patch near the tip. The bill is ivory towards the tip.

The irises are dark brown and the orbital skin is black. The legs and feets are grayish or yellowish green. The plumage of females and immature birds is duller. There is considerable plumage variation between the great barbet subspecies.

The call of these barbets is a loud "kay-ob" or a continuous "piou-piou-piou-piou" or a grating "keeab" sound. The bill is closed while singing and there is great outward expansion of the throat with each note.
Indian birds - Picture of Great barbet - Psilopogon virens
1.Birds of India - Image of Great barbet - Psilopogon virens by Krsnarao2006

Birds of India - Photo of Great barbet - Psilopogon virens
2.Indian birds - Picture of Great barbet - Psilopogon virens by Francesco Veronesi

Indian birds - Image of Great barbet - Psilopogon virens
3.Birds of India - Photo of Great barbet - Psilopogon virens by Sukumardutta

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The great barbet species are distributed in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, China, Laos and Vietnam.

In India, these great barbet species are distributed in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura.

In China, these great barbet species are distributed in the provinces of Yunnan, Sichuan, Guizhou, Guangxi, Hunan, Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi, Anhui, Zhejiang and Jiangsu.

The great barbet nominate subspecies P. v. virens is distributed in central Myanmar, north and central Thailand, north Laos, north Vietnam and southcentral and southeast China.

The great barbet subspecies P. v. marshallorum is distributed in northeast Pakistan, northwest and north India along the Himalayas and Nepal. The subspecies P. v. magnificus is distributed in east Nepal and west and central Assam(India).

The great barbet subspecies P. v. clamator is distributed in northeast India (northeast Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram), north Myanmar, Northwest Thailand and south central China (west Yunnan).

Ecosystem and habitat

These great barbet species have high forest dependence. These species normally occur in altitudes from 0 to 3000 meters. The artificial ecosystems of these species include orchards, plantations and rural gardens.

The natural ecosystems of these great barbet species include temperate forests, broad-leaved evergreen forests, deciduous forests, tropical and subtropical moist lowland forests and tropical and subtropical moist montane forests.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of the great barbet consists mainly of wild fruits. Figs, berries, wild plums, flowers, buds and seeds are their primary food. Occasionally they may take insects.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these great barbet species is from February to September in most of their range. Sometimes two or three broods are raised in a season.

Their nesting sites include tree cavities, tree holes and abandoned nesting holes of other birds. No nesting material is used. The typical great barbet clutch contains 2-4 eggs. The chicks hatch out in about 15 days.

Migration and movement patterns

The great barbet species are non-migratory resident birds. Altitudinal migration is observed in the birds residing in higher altitudes. These barbets move to lower levels and plains during winter. Post breeding, the juveniles may disperse and establish in new locations within the range. They may make local movements for feeding and breeding within their range.

Great barbet - Overview

  • Scientific name: Psilopogon virens
  • Species author: (Boddaert, 1783)
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Bucco virens Boddaert, 1783, Megalaima virens
  • Family: Megalaimidae › Piciformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Great barbet, Chinese: 大拟鴷, French: Barbu géant, German: Heulbartvogel, Spanish: Barbudo grande, Russian: Большой бородастик, Japanese: オオゴシキドリ, Thai: nók tâŋ-lóaa
  • Other names: Hill Barbet, Himalayan Barbet
  • Distribution: India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, China, Laos, Vietnam
  • Diet and feeding habits: fruits
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the great barbet (Psilopogon virens) has not been quantified. The overall population trend of these species is reported to be stable.

Throughout its range this species is reported to be common and is locally very common in Pakistan. The generation length is 8.5 years. Its distribution size is about 6,680,000

Habitat degradation, habitat fragmentation, deforestation and hunting are the main threats that may endanger the survival of these barbet species.

IUCN and CITES status

The great barbet (Psilopogon virens) does not approach the thresholds for being Vulnerable, either under the range size criterion, or under the population trend criterion or under the population size criterion.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the barbet species and has listed it as of "Least Concern". The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for great barbet (Psilopogon virens).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Psilopogon virens
Order: Piciformes
Species:P. virens
Binomial name:Psilopogon virens
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
The great barbet (Psilopogon virens) is closely related to the red-vented barbet (Psilopogon lagrandieri).

The four recognized subspecies of the great barbet are: Psilopogon virens virens (Boddaert, 1783), Psilopogon virens clamator (Mayr, 1941), Psilopogon virens magnificus (E. C. S. Baker, 1926) and Psilopogon virens marshallorum (Swinhoe, 1870).
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1.Photo source: (cropped)
Photo author: Krsnarao2006 | License: CC BY-SA 4.0
2.Photo source: (cropped)
Photo author: Francesco Veronesi | License: CC BY-SA 2.0 as on 7/26/17
3.Photo source: (cropped)
Photo author: Sukumardutta | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
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