Capitonidae - Ecology

Ecology

While most American barbet species inhabit lowland forest, some range into montane and temperate forests as well. Most are restricted to habitats containing trees with dead wood, which are used for nesting.

The diet of barbets is mixed, with fruit being the dominant part of the diet. Small prey items are also taken, especially when nesting. Barbets are capable of shifting their diet quickly in the face of changes in food availability: Numerous species of fruiting tree and bush are visited; an individual barbet may feed on as many as 60 different species in its range. They will also visit plantations and take cultivated fruit and vegetables. Fruit is eaten whole and indigestible material such as seed pits regurgitated later (often before singing). Regurgitation does not usually happen in the nest (as happens with toucans). Like their relatives, American barbets are thought to be important agents in seed dispersal in tropical forests.

As well as taking fruit, they also take arthropod prey, gleaned from the branches and trunks of trees. A wide range of insects are taken, including ants, beetles and moths. Scorpions and centipedes are also taken, and a few species will take small vertebrates such as frogs.

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