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Discover the Fascinating World of the Brown-chested Barbet

The Brown-chested Barbet, scientifically known as Capito brunneipectus, is a small bird species that can be found in South America. Its unique and eye-catching appearance makes it a fascinating subject for bird enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the identification of the Brown-chested Barbet, learn about its different plumages, and discover some interesting facts about its behavior.




The Brown-chested Barbet, as its name suggests, has a brown chest and a green back. Its face is colorful, with a red forehead and throat, and a yellow-green nape.

It also has a black eyeline that runs from the base of the bill to the ear-coverts. The bill is stout and black, with a pale base, and the legs and feet are grey-black in color.

With an average length of around 18 cm and weighing between 48-54 grams, the Brown-chested Barbet is a small bird with a distinctive appearance. Similar Species:

The Brown-chested Barbet can be easily confused with other members of the Capito family due to their similar size and physical features.

The most common species it might be mistaken for is the Scarlet-banded Barbet, which has a red band across its chest. However, the Brown-chested Barbet can be distinguished from the Scarlet-banded Barbet by its lack of a red band and its overall brownish coloration.


The Brown-chested Barbet has four different plumages in its lifetime:

1) Juvenile Plumage: When the Brown-chested Barbet is born, it has a duller coloration, with shorter and lighter feathers. 2) Immature Plumage: After a few months, the Brown-chested Barbet gradually develops its colored plumage but still has a muted appearance.

3) Adult Plumage: It reaches its maximum color intensity in its adult plumage, which is a mix of greens, yellows, and reds. 4) Senescent Plumage: As it grows older, the Brown-chested Barbet loses its colors and acquires a more drab, worn-out look.


The Brown-chested Barbet undergoes yearly molts, which are crucial for replacing old and damaged feathers and maintaining its waterproofing capabilities.

Molts also help in maintaining body temperature, and in the case of males, to enhance their breeding display.

The Brown-chested Barbet molts gradually, and the process can take several months. During this time, they become quite sedentary, foraging and resting until their new feathers grow in.


The Brown-chested Barbet is a unique and fascinating bird species with a wide range of colors, making it an excellent subject for birdwatchers and photographers. Its identification can be tricky to differentiate from similar species, but once you know its distinctive features, it becomes more accessible.

Finally, by analyzing its different molts, we can better appreciate the feathered creature that is present in front of us. With its distinctive style and impressive body features, the Brown-chested Barbet is a must-see on your next bird watching trip.

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Systematics History

The Brown-chested Barbet (Capito brunneipectus) belongs to the family Capitonidae, which comprises of 14 genera and 55 species of bird worldwide. The species was first described in 1857 by Jean Cabanis, a German ornithologist, under the scientific name Tamatia brunneipectus.

Later, due to changes in the taxonomy, it was transferred to the genus Capito, where it currently belongs.

Geographic Variation

The Brown-chested Barbet has a widespread distribution across South America, where it is found in many different habitats such as lowland forests, riparian forests, and savannas, from Panama in Central America to Argentina in the south. It is known for its striking coloration, which varies slightly across its geographic range.

The northernmost populations of the Brown-chested Barbet have a slightly greener tint on their wings and crown, while the southernmost populations are more yellowish-green in color. The birds on the eastern side of the Andes have more extensive yellow in their plumage compared to those on the western side.


There are currently four recognized subspecies of the Brown-chested Barbet, each with its unique color patterns and distribution:

1. C.

b. brunneipectus – This subspecies is distributed across the northernmost and central parts of the species’ range.

They have a brown chest, a green back, red forehead and throat, and a yellow-green nape. The eyeline is black, and the bill is stout and black with a pale base.

2. C.

b. gastroliathus – This subspecies is found in eastern Colombia and northwestern Venezuela at the foothills of the Andes.

They have brighter plumage than other subspecies, including a striking yellow-green throat and a more extensive red forehead. 3.

C. b.

pinguis – This subspecies is found in eastern Ecuador and northeastern Peru along the foothills of the Andes mountains. They have a larger bill and more extensive yellow-green on the nape and vent.

4. C.

b. margaritae – This subspecies is found in southern Venezuela, northern Brazil, Guyana, and Suriname.

They have a duller coloration, with a more olive-green hue than other subspecies and dull red shades.

Related Species

The Brown-chested Barbet belongs to a genus of about 12 species, including the Black-girdled Barbet (Capito dayi), the Scarlet-banded Barbet (Capito wallacei), and the Blue-crowned Barbet (Capito aurovirens). Many of these species have similar physical characteristics to the Brown-chested Barbet, with bright reds, greens, and yellows that make them stand out in their respective habitats.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The Brown-chested Barbet has a broad distribution across South America with historical records dating back to the 19th century. However, its range has undergone some significant changes over time mainly due to habitat degradation and fragmentation that occurred throughout the 20th century.

A study conducted in 2016 suggested that the Brown-chested Barbet is impacted by habitat loss more than many other bird species endemic to the Amazonian region. Due to the fragmentation and degradation of the species’ habitat, some populations have undergone significant declines while others have disappeared altogether.

The population of the Brown-chested Barbet in Ecuador, for example, has declined significantly due to habitat loss, with only a few scattered populations remaining. In Bolivia, the species’ population is under severe threat due to the conversion of forests to agricultural land, which is destroying the bird’s natural habitat.

Conservation efforts for the Brown-chested Barbet have been initiated by numerous organizations such as Birdlife International and the Rainforest Trust. These efforts include implementing conservation strategies that focus on habitat restoration, sustainable forestry, and reforestation.

The aim of these efforts is to restore the species’ habitat and ensure that they continue to flourish in the wild.


The Brown-chested Barbet is a fascinating species that has undergone significant changes in its distribution range and population size over the years. The species has unique physical characteristics and is found in many of South America’s diverse habitats.

However, habitat degradation and fragmentation have caused significant declines in some populations. Conservation measures implemented by various organizations provide hope for the species’ future and aim to protect their natural habitat to promote population growth.

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The Brown-chested Barbet is a resident bird species that is found in various habitats across South America. They are specifically adapted to live in forested areas such as lowland forests and montane forests below 2,000 meters, but they can also be found in riparian forests, forest edges, and savannas.

The species prefers to live in areas associated with water such as riverbanks and wetlands. In particular favours the areas with tall trees and open canopies as it provides enough space for flying and foraging.

The Brown-chested Barbet occurs in a diversity of vegetation types, including humid and drier forests, even in modified habitats like forest fragments, secondary forests, and even urban areas. Despite forest loss and fragmentation in South America, the species’ adaptability enables it to persist in these modified ecosystems.

Movements and Migration

The Brown-chested Barbet is a non-migratory species that does not undertake any significant movements. However, some localized movements are observed during a breeding season, such as short-distance movements to nesting sites.

The species is highly territorial and forms breeding pairs that will defend their territories from neighboring individuals. When not breeding, the Brown-chested Barbet is typically solitary or found in small groups of fewer than six individuals.

They are relatively sedentary, and their movements are limited to foraging areas, communal roosting spots, and nesting sites in breeding season. During the breeding season, males put on an impressive visual display to defend their territories and attract mates.

They engage in calling, bill clattering, and physical fighting to establish dominance over their territory. Males will also perform a duet with their female partners, which is defined by a series of whistles and trilling notes.

One study that looked at the related species, the Blue-crowned Barbet, showed that individuals between the Amazon and Atlantic forest populations exhibited minimal genetic differentiation while significant genetic differentiation was found between Andean and Amazonian populations. The results of this study imply that seasonal migration of Andean populations might play a crucial role in shaping the genetic structure and presenting opportunities for gene flow between the populations.

Overall, the Brown-chested Barbet is a sedentary bird that is not known for significant migratory patterns or movements, but it does exhibit some localized movements during the breeding season.


The Brown-chested Barbet thrives in different forested habitats in South America, including modified and urban areas. It has adapted to the changes in its natural habitat and evolved to exhibit flexible behaviors that enable its survival in fragmented ecosystems.

As a non-migratory bird that is highly territorial, it has a range of adaptive behaviors that allow it to forage, nest, and display courtship during the breeding season. While minimal migratory patterns have been observed, localized movements during the breeding season suggest that further studies may reveal more about the movements and migration of the species.

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Diet and Foraging


The Brown-chested Barbet feeds on a variety of insects, fruits, and seeds, which it finds by probing bark or gleaning from leaves and branches. Despite its small size, its stout bill allows it to extract insects from bark, wood or within decaying tree trunks with ease.

They often hunt caterpillars, grasshoppers, ants, beetles and spiders.


The Brown-chested Barbet is known to feed on a wide range of fruits, including those from the Solanum, Melastomataceae, Lauraceae, and Arecaceae plant families.

This species is also known to occasionally visit fruiting trees in open areas, like those cultivated for human use. Due to their mutualistic interaction with plant species, Brown-chested Barbets have been reported to increase the germination rate of seeds.

Barbets provide the seeds with networked channels so that their body heat can provide the required warmth for rapid germination. This way, through seed dispersal, Barbets contribute to maintaining the ecosystem’s diversity.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation:

In general, the Brown-chested Barbet’s metabolic rate is relatively low due to its small size. It has a low body temperature that decreases at night when it is inactive.

However, the species can raise their body temperature when undergoing high-energy activities such as flight, courtship displays, or foraging. Barbets have an efficient system that allows them to regulate their body temperature as needed.

They maintain internal body temperature through a combination of behavioural strategies such as sunbathing and fluffing their feathers to trap hot air near the skin.

Sounds and Vocal



The Brown-chested Barbet is known for its vocal abilities, producing a series of calls and songs that are unique to the species. Vocalization is an essential part of their daily lives, used to defend their territories from competitors, to seek mates, and to communicate within their social group.

Male Brown-chested Barbets have a more extensive vocabulary of sounds than females and use their calls and songs to attract females during the breeding season. They often bring insects or fruits to females as a gift during courtship.

Females, in turn, vocalize less frequently and have a more limited vocabulary of calls. The vocal repertoire of the Brown-chested Barbet includes a series of sounds, including a gruff, rolling chatter, a high-pitched trill, metallic notes, and a soft ‘peugh’ call.

The ‘peugh’ call is a short, weak, rising note that is often used as a contact call during flight. The species has also been observed producing a short monotonic note in response to the presence of danger or predators.

Despite the significant variation within their vocal repertoire, the Brown-chested Barbet is known for being relatively silent. Its vocalizations are more commonly heard during the early morning and late afternoon, coinciding with peak foraging activity.


The Brown-chested Barbet is a unique bird species with adaptations to benefit their foraging and vocalizing. They feed on a variety of insects, fruits, and seeds, making them an important contributor to the ecosystem’s health.

Their metabolic rate is relatively low, but they can quickly raise their body temperature to fulfil necessary activities. Vocalization, an essential part of their lives, is used for communication, courtship, and defence.

The Brown-chested Barbet’s vocal repertoire is vast, and their unique sounds including a range of notes like gruff, metallic, and soft peughs call. of the topic.



The Brown-chested Barbet is a perching bird that moves primarily via flight. They are agile flyers, capable of making short, direct flights to move around their territory.

During foraging, their locomotion includes hopping and climbing along branches and tree trunks to access hidden insects and fruits. Self-Maintenance:

Barbets maintain their physical appearance by preening their feathers with their bills.

They produce an oil from the preen gland on their rump to keep their feathers clean and waterproof. Agonistic


Barbets are generally solitary birds, and their agonistic behavior is mainly related to territoriality.

Males aggressively defend their territory throughout the year by displaying visual and vocal signals of threat against intruders. They will also engage in physical conflict, which can include bill clattering and even biting.



The Brown-chested Barbet’s sexual behavior is primarily related to mate selection and breeding. Male Brown-chested Barbets will perform a variety of vocal and visual displays to attract females, and they will also bring gifts of insects or fruits to females during courtship.

Females play a passive role during courtship and select males based on their display quality and gifts.


The Brown-chested Barbet breeds from February to June in most of its distribution range. During this time, pairs will excavate a cavity in a tree trunk, using their bill to create a hole big enough to accommodate the nest.

The female then lays 2-3 eggs, which she incubates for approximately 14 days. Once the eggs hatch, both parents will take turns feeding and caring for the chicks.

The chicks are born with a downy coat of feathers and are completely dependent on their parents for the first several weeks. They are typically fledged, or able to fly, within four to five weeks and become independent soon after.

In some cases, Brown-chested Barbets have been observed nesting in large groups, with multiple pairs sharing the same tree or branch.

Demography and Populations

The Brown-chested Barbet is not currently listed as threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), but there is evidence of population decline due to habitat loss across its range. In Brazil, for example, the species’ habitat has been degraded and deforested at an alarming rate, leading to significant population declines.

The loss of riparian vegetation and other habitats along rivers also threatens the species, as these areas are vital for its foraging and nesting activities. Despite these threats, the Brown-chested Barbet is a relatively adaptable species and can be found in a range of forest types.

It is also relatively common across most of its range, indicating that the risk of extinction is moderate. Conservation efforts to protect habitat and reduce deforestation rates are essential to ensure the continued survival of this fascinating bird species.


The Brown-chested Barbet is a unique bird species that exhibits specialized behavior patterns that are essential for their survival in the wild. They are primarily arboreal birds, relying on flight, hopping, and climbing to move around their territories.

They maintain their physical appearance via preening and engage in agonistic behavior to defend their territories from other individuals. During the breeding season, they form pairs and excavate a cavity in tree trunks to lay and reproduce.

Although not currently endangered, the species is threatened by habitat loss and deforestation across its range, highlighting the importance of conservation efforts to ensure the continued survival of this species.

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