White-cheeked Barbet Psilopogon viridis Scientific name definitions

Anand Krishnan
Version: 2.0 — Published January 29, 2021


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Typically spending most of its time in the canopy, the White-cheeked Barbet occasionally descends to the ground in search of food. Relatively well studied compared to other members of its family, on account of the work done by HSA Yahya (14, 12), the sections below summarize the state of knowledge about its behavior.


Walking, Running, Hopping, Climbing, etc.

Typical of the genus; moves around in hops from branch to branch in search of food (1, 2).


Has the typical flight pattern of a barbet: strong wingbeats followed by a dipping phase with the wings folded against the body. Flight trajectories thus show strong undulations (1, 2).


Drinks and bathes in open natural tree holes filled with rainwater (12). The bird dips its beak in the water and then raises it, repeating the motion again and again for 15-35 seconds. When bathing alone, may last for up to 11 minutes, but usually 2-3 minutes when in a group. The bird first immerses the anterior portion of its body, then turns around and splashes the posterior by fanning the wings and tail ( ). This is followed by thorough preening and fluffing of the plumage. In the rains, the bird sits out and preens its plumage, but does not take a regular bath in this fashion.

Agonistic Behavior

Territorial Behavior

Highly aggressive towards other birds. Aggressive, territorial barbet (2). Constantly aggressive to the sympatric Malabar Barbet (Psilopogon malabaricus), frequently driving it away and even destroying its nests. Also aggressive towards other cavity nesters such as woodpeckers, mynas and tits, but tolerates non-cavity nesters in its vicinity (14). Also aggressive to three-striped palm squirrels, which are nest predators (14), and birds such as Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopaceus) at fruiting trees (15), which it will attempt to chase away (AK).


Yahya (14) could not identify well-defined territories, but pairs sometimes nested as close as 19m to each other. However, conspecifics never nested in the same tree.

Sexual Behavior

Courtship, Copulation, and Pair Bond

Courtship feeding was observed throughout copulation and nest building, but not during incubation. When excavating the nest, the relieving partner would feed its mate before taking over the excavating activities.

Copulation is completed in two successive mounts, lasting 6-7 seconds. The female crouches, maintaining a 30 degree angle between the perch and her tarsal joint, and issues solicitation calls. Both birds fan their tail and flutter their wings, the male mounting at about a 60 degree angle to the female and pressing his cloaca to hers. On seven occasions, the male fed the female, five times before copulation and twice after. On three occasions, there was no courtship feeding, and also no second mount. Pairs raising a second brood copulate again 5-7 days before the first brood fledges (14).

Three out of four pairs observed were found to pair across multiple breeding seasons.

Social and Interspecific Behavior

Degree of Sociality
Roosts singly or in small groups. During nesting, birds roosted apart, and drove away a pair of Malabar Barbets (Psilopogon malabaricus) that earlier were tolerated in the vicinity (2). In urban areas, recorded roosting in Delonix regia and Spathodea campanulata (16).

Nonpredatory Interspecific Interactions

Although more tolerant of conspecifics than other barbets (14), it generally chases away intruders. See Agonistic Behavior.


Kinds of Predators

Three-striped palm squirrels have been recorded destroying nests, and the Shikra (Accipiter badius) is a known predator of adult birds (14). The Brown Boobook (Ninox scutulata) has also been recorded attacking adults (2).

Recommended Citation

Krishnan, A. (2021). White-cheeked Barbet (Psilopogon viridis), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (T. S. Schulenberg and B. K. Keeney, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.whcbar1.02