I am sure I am not the only one to wonder why these barbets have been named for the black collar and not for their distinctive and bright red head – surely a little perverse?

The duets of the title of this post refer to the familiar call and response of breeding pairs – they usually call when perching in close proximity to each other, and also when changing over shifts when taking turns in caring for young in the nest during the breeding season.

2 Black-collared Barbet calling

A Black-collared Barbet calling from a treetop in the garden. Unfortunately, I have not been able to take a photo of a dueting pair. Note the strong and slightly serrated bill that is an efficient tool for excavating nesting holes in dead trees

The warfare of the title refers to the vigilant and vocal attention the barbets need to pay to the Lesser Honeyguide, a brood parasite, to try to prevent a female Honeyguide from entering the Barbet nest to lay an egg.  The Honeyguides harass the Barbets relentlessly, trying to create an opportunity for the female to enter the nest so she can quickly lay an egg. Honeyguide chicks are born with bill hooks and during their first week, while still blind, they attack the host chicks aggressively, injuring them fatally.

3 Lesser Honeyguide

An adult Lesser Honeyguide at a birdbath in our garden

After an old partially decaying tree in our garden that the Barbets were nesting in fell down, we hung a homemade nesting log in another tree in the garden. The nesting log was investigated by Olive Woodpeckers and by Black-collared Barbets, but nobody moved in.

4 Black-collared Barbet

After some months a pair of Black-collared Barbets arrived and busily started excavating a new hole in the log, rather than using the hole provided

5 Black-collared Barbet

Taking turns, they started excavating the log in several places before giving up, deciding to move on to another tree with a dead branch that they made a nest in. A breeding pair may have nest helpers, who even help excavating new nests

6 Black-collared Barbet making nesting hole

This Barbet spent a lot of time over several days, excavating the beginnings of a nest in another tree, before moving on. It seems strange that they expend such a lot of effort starting to make nesting holes that are then rejected

7 Black-collared Barbet making nesting hole

The Barbet hangs on with both feet while vigorously excavating the nest hole with its strong bill, often throwing up small flurries of “sawdust”

8 Black-collared Barbet in nest

This Barbet is snugly peeping out of the nesting hole. This nest was in the old tree that eventually fell down because of rotting at its base. Fortunately for the Barbets, it was not breeding season when the tree fell down

Barbets can use the same nesting holes for many years. They sometimes roost communally, often with their own offspring.

Black-collared Barbets are found in woodlands and forests and also gardens where fruiting trees occur. Their main food is fruits, but they also eat insects and nectar. These colourful birds are a very busy and vocal presence in the garden.

9 Black-collared Barbet foraging for fruit

This photo, taken through our dining room window, shows a Black-collared Barbet foraging for fruits in the Tree Fuchsia (Halleria lucida)

Source: Roberts VII Multimedia PC Edition. 1997-2016 Southern African Birding. http://www.sabirding.co.za/roberts7/portal.html

Posted by Carol