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Yellow-spotted Barbet by Lorenzo Barelli

African Barbets and Tinkerbirds in East Africa

Order – Piciformes – Infraorder Ramphastides – Toucans and Barbets.

Almost all species in the order Piciformes are zygodactyl. 2 toes point forward, 2 toes backwards. This seems to be ideal for an arboreal life style.

In the family Ramphastidae are Toucans, Aracaris, American Barbets, African Barbets and Tinkerbirds. We concentrate us on African species. Barbets are medium seized while Tinkerbirds are small. Some have beautiful colours while others are plain brown, greenish or grey. What they have in common is quite strong bill and typical the bristles around the bill.

Barbets and Tinkerbirds are fruit eaters and important distributors of seeds. But they also take insects. A number of Barbets and Tinkerbirds have quite small distribution areas. So to find a good number of them, travelling long distances is a must.

The fruit eaters follow trees with ripe fruits. Insectivorous species can hammer into dead wood to obtain insects. They are not specially equipped like woodpeckers.

The nests of Barbets and Tinkerbirds are in holes. This can be in a tree, in an unused hole of a Bee-eater or Kingfisher or in a termite mound.

The family of Barbets and Tinkerbirds Ramphastidae  

Subfamilies. Some authors still have Lybiidae as family for African Barbets

Lybiinae with genus Gymnobucco, Stactolaema, Pogoniulus (Tinkerbirds), Buccanodon, Tricholaema, Lybius

Trachyphoninae with the genus Trachyphonus

To give you as actual information as possible we use Avibase, the books “Birds of Africa South of the Sahara”, “Birds of East Africa”, “Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania”. Then we put the most characteristic information to the photo.

You can also follow us on Facebook “Bird photography Safaris Kenya” and see the numerous species as well as the beautiful photos from Lorenzo Barelli.

Click on the photo for larger view. The names of the photographers are on the photo and in the text. Without the generosity of several amazing bird photographers it had not been possible to create the pages with so many illustrated bird species. Those photos without name are from Elvira Wolfer.

Here you find samples of our birding safaris. Since most of the species here have a wide distribution range you can find many of them during most of our tours. To find a particular species or subspecies we will advise you on the most suitable itinerary.

Grey-throated Barbet (Gymnobucco (bonapartei) cinereiceps) lives in forests with tall trees and forest edges from 900 – 2.100 m in Western Kenya, Uganda, DRC, Angola and W Tanzania. Kakamega Forest

White-eared Barbet (Stactolaema leucotis kilimensis syn. kenyae) is found in Central Kenya highland forests and NE Tanzania. The subspecies leucogrammica occurs in Central Tanzania. Photo Lorenzo Barelli

Whyte’s Barbet (Stactolaema whytii terminata) is restricted to the area around Iringa. Habitat: Miombo woodland, riverine forest usually near fig trees. The subspecies stresemanni is found SW Tanzania and adjacent NE Zambia. The nominate form: S – Central Tanzania to SE Malawi and Mozambique. Photo Per Holmen

Green Barbet (Cryptolybia (Stactolaema) o. olivacea) is found in coastal forests in Kenya and NE Tanzania. The subspecies howelli occurs in Central Tanzania (Udzungwa and Mahenge mountains), rungwensis lives from SW Tanzania to N Malawi. Photo Per Holmen, Amani Forest

Speckled Tinkerbird (Pogoniulus scolopaceus flavisquamatus syn. angolensis) inhabits forests, gallery forests and secondary growth from Uganda to Angola. Photo Per Holmen, Mpanga Forest, Uganda

Eastern (African) green Tinkerbird (Pogoniulus simplex) is found in canopies of coastal forests from Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and S Mozambique. Photo Per Holmen

Moustached (green) Tinkerbird (Pogoniulus l. leucomystax) is found in forests between 1.400 – 3.000 m from Mt. Elgon (Uganda) to NE Tanzania. The subspecies meridionalis occurs from S Tanzania to Malawi. Photo Per Holmen

Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird (Pogoniulus c. chrysoconus) is found in woodland and moist savanna from sea level to 1.500 m from SW Mauritania and Senegambia to Ethiopia to NW Tanzania. The subspecies extoni occurs in S Tanzania and further South. Photo Lorenzo Barelli

Golden (Yellow)-rumped Tinkerbird (Pogoniulus bilineatus jacksoni) is the subspecies of highland forests in central Kenya, E Uganda and N Tanzania. Photo left Lorenzo Barelli, right Elvira Wolfer. Video

Lemon-rumped Tinkerbird (Pogoniulus bilineatus fischeri) is found in the coastal region of Kenya and NE Tanzania in forested areas. The nominate form occurs in SE Tanzania. Photo Per Holmen, Amani Forest

Lemon-rumped Tinkerbird (Pogoniulus l. leucolaimus) is found at mid altitude with trees in Uganda and W Kenya. The subspecies mfumbiri is in highlands in DRC, W Rwanda, Burundi, NW Tanzania and SW Uganda (Kibale Forest). Photo Per Holmen

Yellow-throated Tinkerbird (Pogoniulus subsulphureus flavimentum) inhabits mature forests, gallery forests, forest edges from 700 – 2.100 m from Togo to S Central African Republic, E DRC and E Uganda. Photo Per Holmen, Budongo Forest

Red-fronted Tinkerbird (Pogoniulus pusillus affinis). You can often here the metallic sound in dry bush level from sea level to 2.200 m in East Africa. Photo Lorenzo Barelli

Red-rumped Tinkerbird (Pogoniulus atroflavus) is the only Tinkerbird with a bright red rump. It is a scarce resident at Semliki Forest at 700 m. It is more common further West.

White-headed Barbet (Lybius l. leucocephalus) all subspecies are mainly fruit eaters and live in riparian forests, wooded grassland, gardens often near fig trees from 0 – 2.200 m. Nominate occurs in S Sudan, DRC, W Kenya and NW Tanzania. Photo Per Holmen, Lake Eyasi

White-headed Barbet (Lybius leucocephalus albicauda) is found in SW Kenya and N Tanzania. Masai Mara. Feasting on the fruit of a Desert Date (Balanites sp.)

White-headed Barbet (Lybius leucocephalus senex) occurs in highlands of central Kenya. Nairobi area.

Black-billed Barbet (Lybius guifsobalito) is endemic to NE Africa in woodland, even degraded areas and cultivation with fruiting trees. W Kenya, Uganda, NW Tanzania. Photo Lorenzo Barelli, Kisumu

Brown-breasted Barbet (Lybius melanopterus) is endemic to East
Africa from Somalia, coastal Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique.  They look for fruiting trees from 0 – 1.700 m.
Photo Lorenzo Barelli

Black-collared Barbet (Lybius torquatus irroratus) occurs from East to South Africa and Angola region in woodland, forest edges and gardens. Zombae from SE Tanzania to C Malawi and Mozambique; pumilio E Rwanda, W Tanzania, N Zambia, NW Mozambique – irroratus coastal Kenya to (Lamu and Tana River) to Central Tanzania. Dakatcha Woodland

Black-breasted Barbet (Lybius (Pogonornis) rolleti) is uncommon in different wooded areas (fig trees) from 900 – 1.200 m from S Chad to N Uganda.

White-faced Barbet (Lybius (Pogonornis) macclounii) is a split from Black-backed Barbet (Lybius minor). It is uncommon in different forested areas often near termite mounds in SW Uganda, NW Tanzania and further South.

Double-toothed Barbet (Lybius (Pogonornis) bidentatus aequatorialis) is common in woodland, wooded grassland, plantations in W Kenya, NW Tanzania, Uganda, N DRC. Photo Lorenzo Barelli

Eastern Yellow-billed Barbet (Trachyphonus purpuratus elgonensis) is common in forested areas from 700 – 2.800 m from South Sudan, E DRC, Uganda, W Kenya. Photo Lorenzo Barelli

D’Arnaud’s Barbet (Trachyphonus d. darnaudi) the species is endemic, common and widespread in EA and the horn of Africa in dry to semi-arid bush land. The nominate form is found in SE South Sudan, NE Uganda and W to central Kenya. Lake Baringo. Video

D’Arnaud’s Barbet (Trachyphonus darnaudi boehmi) in S and E Ethiopia, E Kenya and NE Tanzania. Tsavo West

D’Arnaud’s Barbet (Trachyphonus darnaudi emini) occurs from N to central Tanzania. Photo Per Holmen, Tarangire

Crested Barbet (Trachyphonus vaillantii suahelicus) uncommon and local in bushland from 0 – 1.300 m. In East Africa you can find them in Tanzania.

Usambiro Barbet (Trachyphonus usambiro) is endemic to SW Kenya and NW Tanzania (Mara – Serengeti) in bushed and wooded grassland. Serengeti

Red-and-yellow Barbet (Trachyphonus erythrocephalus versicolor) is in dry bush land often near termite mounds up to 2.100 m from S South Sudan, NE Uganda, SW Ethiopia, SW Somalia and N Kenya. The species is endemic to NE Africa. Samburu

Red-and-yellow Barbet (Trachyphonus e. erythrocephalus) occurs in dry areas from central Kenya to Northern Tanzania. Lake Manyara and Taita Hills. The subspecies shelleyi lives in NE Kenya.

Red-fronted Barbet (Tricholaema d. diademata) is an NE endemic species. The nominate form is from SE South Sudan, central Ethiopia, E Uganda to Kenya mostly North of the equator. Lake Baringo

Red-fronted Barbet (Tricholaema diademata massaica) occurs from central Kenya to central and SW Tanzania. Woodland, riverine forest – looking for fruiting trees. Ol Pejeta. Heavier spotted breast than nominate.

Hairy-breasted Barbet (Tricholaema hirsuta ansorgii) locally common in forested areas from 700 – 1.800 m from DRC to W Kenya (Kakamega Forest), Kibale Forest. Photo Per Holmen

Black-throated Barbet (Tricholaema melanocephala stigmatothorax) likes semi-arid bush and thorn tree regions from near coast up to 1.500 m from Somaliland to N Tanzania. The subspecies flavibuccalis is found in Serengeti Seronera and Wembere Steppes. Photo Lorenzo Barelli

Spot-flanked Barbet (Tricholaema l. lachrymosa) is found in South Sudan, Uganda, N and E Kenya, NE Tanzania. It is boldly spotted. Female has darker eyes. The subspecies ruahae belongs to central Tanzania and NE Zambia.

Spot-flanked Barbet (Tricholaema lachrymosa radcliffei). The species is endemic in E Africa in wooded grassland below 2.000 m. This subspecies occurs E DRC, S Uganda, Central Kenya and South to Burundi and W Tanzania.

Miombo Pied Barbet (Tricholaema frontata) is endemic to the Southern Central Africa in Miombo Woodland. SW Tanzania, Photo Per Holmen

Yellow-spotted Barbet (Buccanodon d. duchaillui) occurs from SE Nigeria to Western Kenya in forest and secondary growth. Photo Lorenzo Barelli