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Semnornithidae – Toucan-Barbets

Toucan-Barbet in Ecuador: Photo by Patrick Maurice

Toucan-Barbets, a small family of birds, consist of two species found in the montane forests of Central and South America. Known for their vibrant plumage and distinctive bills, these birds play important roles in their forest ecosystems.

Overview of Semnornithidae

These two barbet species appear to represent an ancient lineage within New World barbets and toucans. They possess fewer and finer rictal bristles compared to most barbets, and their bills have a unique fine tip that fits into a tiny notch at the lower bill’s tip. While one species displays predominantly muted green plumage, the other resembles a miniature, multicolored toucan. Similar to other barbets, they primarily feed on fruit but also include insects and invertebrates in their diets, and they construct their nests within tree cavities. Their calls differ from those of other New World barbets, being throatier and brassier, akin to the vocalizations of small toucans rather than typical barbets.