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Bill as a rule stout and strong. Nostrils at base of bill, often overhung by plumes and bristles. Rictal and chin bristles often largely developed. Ventral feather-tract forked on the throat and on each side of the breast. Tail-feathers 10. Wing rounded in all Indian forms, and with 10 primaries, the first short.
Key to the Genera
a. No green on plumage; no rictal bristles ....
The Barbets are mainly fruit-eating birds. In the stomachs of the African species that I examined in Abyssinia I found insects in considerable quantities; but although some of the Indian species are occasionally insectivorous, none of them, with the exception of Calorhamphus, feed much on insect food. Indian species, with the same exception, have a peculiar call of one, two, or three syllables, repeated in a singularly monotonous manner for several minutes, then ceasing for a time, and recommencing after an interval. The calls of two or more birds are frequently heard together, the pitch of each bird’s note being different, it is often very difficult to tell in which direction precisely a bird is calling, and both the direction and distance appear to vary as the bird turns its head in different ways. Each bird, in the act of calling, nods its head in a peculiar manner. All Barbets, so far as is known, excavate nest-holes in trees not unlike those made by Woodpeckers; the entrance small, generally very well rounded and neatly bevelled, and the inside larger and well smoothed. The eggs, which are white but not so glossy as those of Woodpeckers, are laid on the bare wood, or on a few chips. When making their nest-holes these birds tap to detach the wood, but the action is much slower than that of Woodpeckers.
As a rule Barbets perch, and they do not, commonly at all events, climb stems or branches as Woodpeckers do, but they sometimes cling to a vertical tree. Their flight is undulating, but strong and moderately rapid.
In the plumage of all Indian species, except Calorhamphus hayi, green predominates. The sexes are generally alike.
Bill stout, culmen much curved, sharply angulate, upper mandible not swollen at the base; nostrils partly overhung, but not concealed, by feathers and a few bristles; no bristles on chin; feathers of crown with coarse shafts, of which the ends are prolonged as free bristles. Wings rounded, tail slightly rounded. Sexes alike except in the colour of the bill.
A genus of two small dull-colored species, brown above, whitish below, confined to the Malay countries. One is found in southern Tenasserim.
Coloration: Upper parts throughout dark brown, the feathers of the crown with black shafts and narrowly edged with rufous, those of the mantle with narrow yellow edges, which are more conspicuous on the upper tail-coverts; these pale fringes disappear with wear. Quills and tail-feathers also dark brown, the quills with fulvous inner margins. Sides of head dark brown like the crown, becoming paler and reddish in the malar region. Chin and throat still paler rufous, remainder of lower parts sullied yellowish white.
Bill black in the male, dull reddish brown in the female; irides dull red or brownish red; legs and feet orange, claws black (Davison).
Size: Length 7.25; tail 2; wing 3.25; tarsus 0.85; bill from gape 1.2
Distribution: From the southernmost part of Tenasserim throughout the Malay peninsula to Sumatra.
Habits: According to Davison this is a forest bird, usually seen in
small parties of three or four, hunting about the branches and leaves of
trees, clinging in all positions like a Tit, and feeding on insects as much
as fruits. It has a most peculiar note, a low soft whistle.
Bill large, culmen rounded, not angulate, much curved, upper mandible considerably swollen at the base and overlapping the lower. Nostrils completely covered by plumes and bristles, base of bill surrounded by bristles not so long as the bill; wings rounded; tail square. Sexes alike.
This genus as restricted comprises three species of large size, two of which are found within our area; the third, M. lagrandieri, occurs in Cochin China. The prevailing colour is green. The under tail-coverts are bright red.
Key to the Species
Fig. 24 - head of M. marshallorum
Coloration: Feathers of head and neck all round black with deep violet-blue edges. Back and scapulars brownish olive, the upper back with narrow pale green or greenish-yellow longitudinal streaks. Lower back, rump, and upper tail-coverts grass-green, with brighter green edges. Tail green above, blackish washed with pale blue below. Secondary-coverts like back; primary-coverts and primaries near the base fringed with blue, outer webs of secondaries green, tertiaries bluer with the tips olive-brown, remainder of quills blackish brown, inner webs with yellowish- white margins, and outer webs of primaries with a pale linear border near the tips. Upper breast dark olive-brown; lower breast and abdomen blue in the middle, yellow with broad brownish shaft-stripes at the sides. Under tail-coverts scarlet.
Bill yellow, pale in front, dusky at the edge of the upper mandible; irides brown; legs greenish horny (Jerdon).
Size: Length 13; tail 4; wing 5.7; tarsus 1.25; bill from gape 2.1
Distribution: Throughout the Himalayas as far west as Murree, between about 3000 and 8000 feet elevation, also south of the Assam valley in Manipur, the Khasi hills, and, according to Blyth, Arrakan. Birds from Karennee referred to this species by Wardlaw Ramsay prove to belong to the next.
Habits: A forest bird; according to Jerdon, “it has a loud plaintive call (pi-o, pi-o), keeps to the top of high trees, lives entirely on fruit, and has a strong and vigorous flight in great undulations”. It sometimes is met with in small flocks. It makes nest-holes in various trees, in the trunks and larger branches, from 10 to 50 feet from the ground, and lays from the middle of May to the middle of July. The eggs are dull white, usually four in number, and measure on an average 1.37 by 0.98.
Similar to M. marshallorum, except that the colour of the head and neck is verditer-blue with a greenish tinge, and that the pale streaks on the upper back are much fewer, less marked, and whitish or bluish, not green or yellow; the median wing-coverts too are tinged with red. Soft parts and dimensions as in M. marshallorum.
Distribution: Karennee and hill-forests of northern Tenasserim as far south as Muleyit, east of Moulmein, extending thence into south China.
Habits: Similar to those of M. marshallorum. The eggs were
found by Major Bingham in Tenasserim during February mid March.
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