Chaplin’s Barbet


Zambia has only one true endemic species – the Chaplin’s or Zambian Barbet (Lybius chaplini).  Population size is about 5,200 adult birds which are found from just North of Lusaka, on the Kafue Flats, and in Southern Province.

These barbets are generally associated with open woodlands with Sycamore Fig trees.  And it is thought that they only breed in Fig Trees which are 40 years or older.  They are therefore very vulnerable to deforestation.

Zambian Barbet ©Niall Perrins



Size:  19 cm (including tail)

Weight:  64–75 grams

These barbet are small and stout looking with a large head and a heavy bill with bristles.  Their plumage is white, with vibrant red around the eyes, having a black tail, and black wings with yellow edges.

They snap their stout bill, making a loud noise, along with other grating and buzzy notes.  They have a noisy cackle song with can be sung by up to three birds at a time.


Typically they are social, foraging and roosting in groups of two to six individuals.  They are also aggressively territorial – attacking other barbets and any other birds that try to intrude their trees.  They perform elaborate communications, with their greeting ceremony comprising of two or more birds engaged in an energetic display of bouncing, hopping, swinging and wing-flapping.

Breeding takes place between August to November.  They nest in cavities in the Fig Tree’s branches, and females lay between two and four eggs which are then incubated for up to 15 days.  Both parents share nesting and feeding of the newborn chicks.  But they are parasitised by Lesser Honeyguides, who lay their own eggs in the barbet’s nest, leaving their young to be raised by the barbets.

Barbets eat a wide range of fruits, including figs as well as cultivated fruit and vegetables.  The whole fruit is eaten and any indigestible materials, like seed pips, are later regurgitated.  They are therefore good seed dispersers.  They also eat a variety of insects, including ants, dragonflies, locusts, beetles, moths and scorpions as well as small reptiles such as frogs, geckos and lizards.


Population Size:  5,200

Trend:  decreasing

Chaplin’s Barbet are classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.  As they live outside protected areas human activities, such as agriculture and firewood collection, is reducing their habitats due their dependence on the Sycamore Fig Tree (Ficus sycomorus).

Over the past 20-30 years there has been a significant decline in their numbers.