White-cheeked Barbet Psilopogon viridis Scientific name definitions

Anand Krishnan
Version: 2.0 — Published January 29, 2021

Diet and Foraging

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Diet and Foraging

Primarily a canopy frugivore, but some insects and animal matter also taken. Detailed studies by H.S.A. Yahya (11) render this one of the better understood of the Asian barbets. What is known of its diet is summarized below, particularly from the above study that tracked the diet over an entire year.


Main Foods Taken

Consumes largely fruit, but also takes insect matter.

Microhabitat for Foraging

Largely arboreal, feeding in trees, usually alone but sometimes in groups of over 20 at fruiting trees (2). Only occasionally has it been observed descending to the ground in search of food (11). Is an active participant in mixed-species flocks, making sallies out to catch flying insects such as winged termites and Lepidopterans, and frequently descending quite low. Out of 3346 birds where feeding height was recorded:

  • Ground: 0.15%
  • 1-4m: 18.42%
  • 4-8m: 29.93%
  • >8m: 51.5%

Food Capture and Consumption

It is ecologically separated from the sympatric Malabar Barbet (Psilopogon malabaricus) both on account of foraging height (see above), and diet. Its larger bill enables it to eat larger fruit, which it swallows whole, and it can also take larger insects. Other than the aerial sallies described above, largely feeds when perched, reaching out to take a fruit or arthropod with its bill.

This species is frequently aggressive to other birds, including smaller barbets, at fruiting trees, and feeds primarily in the morning and late afternoon (11).


Major Food Items

Consumes diverse fruits (e.g., figs and berries), flowers, nectar, and animal matter, the latter particularly when it has nestlings (2). This species, together with the sympatric Malabar Barbet (Psilopogon malabaricus), was the subject of a detailed dietary study at the Periyar forest in Kerala, which quantified annual dietary variation. This study remains one of the richest sources of information we have about barbet diets (11). Detailed information from this study is below. In addition to the listed items, it has been recorded to eat berries, including those of coffee plants. However, performs a service to plantation agriculture by feeding on coffee-boring insects as well. Has been observed to flycatch for insects; flying clumsily from a branch (2). Tends to take larger figs than Psilopogon malabaricus in Kerala, and also tends to take a higher percentage of animal matter in its diet (about 30%)(11).

Summary of dietary findings from (11):

Plant matter:

  • January-February: Because of limited fruiting trees, frequently foraged on shrubs. Prefers Ficus mysorensis, Bischofia javanica, Leea indica, Lantana camara, Solanum indicum.
  • March-April: Ficus retusa, Ficus tsiela. Shows a marked preference for Actinodaphne hookeri, which starts fruiting in April. Also feeds on Machilus macrantha.
  • May-August: Feeds on Grewia tiliaefolia, Ficus retusa, and Ficus tsiela. Tends to prefer Grewia, but also feeds on fruits of Macaranga, Solanum, Lantana, and the nectar of Erythrina. Rarely takes nectar from Spathodea campanulata.
  • November-December: Prefers fruits of Ficus insignis, and also Ficus infectoria. The only barbet to feed on Solanum, Lantana, and Leea indica fruits, and the nectar of Bombax ceiba and Erythrina. Both it and Malabar Barbet sometimes take berries of Evodea lunuankenda, Loranthus, and Viscum.
  • In all months feeds to some extent on Leea indica, Lantana camara, Bridelia retusa, and Careya arborea, thus reducing competition with other barbets such as Malabar Barbet.

Also recorded feeding on flowers (Cullenia exarillata, Clitoria ternatea) (11).

Out of 2352 birds observed feeding, 37.45% fed on figs <8mm in diameter, 34.31% on 8-16mm figs and 28.24% on figs >16mm

Animal matter:

Earthworms (rarely), butterflies, dragonflies, mantids ( ), cicadas, beetles, spiders ( ), termites and caterpillars. 994 of 3346 total individuals observed to take insects. In April-May, congregates in large numbers to feed on the teak defoliator Hyblaea puera.

Food Selection and Storage

No published information.

Nutrition and Energetics

No published information.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

No published information.

Drinking, Pellet-Casting, and Defecation

Drinks from rain-filled tree hollows (12).

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