Image of the Month November 2023: Toucan Barbet

Photographer: DuĊĦan Brinkhuizen   Destination: Ecuador


Truly one of South America’s fanciest birds, the Toucan Barbet is a colourful, frugivorous representative of the two-member, Semnornithidae family. The fascinating history of the Toucan Barbet’s name starts with the fact they were previously grouped with Capitonidae barbets. DNA studies have since confirmed that this species is more closely related to the Toucans than the Old World barbets! As a result, the Toucan Barbet, alongside the Prong-billed Barbet, now sit in their own distinct family. This species is also unusual amongst frugivorous species as it breeds cooperatively, with several ‘helpers’ assisting a dominant pair with incubation duties and raising the young. Toucan Barbets can be fairly obliging at feeders and are excellent photographic subjects, with just the right amount of luck, light, and a steady hand, Dušan was able to capture this individual in a stunning pose! 

One of the very best ways to see a Toucan Barbet is on a few of our special Ecuador tours. Specifically, our Ecuador Western: Chocó Specialities tour and our Ecuador Northern: Choco Cloud Forest tours as these trips spend time in the unique Chocó forests, the favoured home of the Toucan Barbet. What is more our Western Ecuador offering is one of the tours that qualify for our special Bird Families program! Besides targeting many fabulous Chocó endemics this tour takes us to what is possibly the best spot for Sapayoa, which is a very special and unique bird, and the sole member of the Sapayoidae family.

Ecuador is well known to be bursting at the seams with avian diversity, it is one of the world’s top birding destinations with a brain-boggling list of more than 1600 species of birds. This mega-diverse region supports almost half of the world’s tyrant flycatchers, over 130 species of hummingbirds, vibrant toucans and trogons, charismatic antpittas, and some real peculiarities like the Long-wattled Umbrellabird and Andean Cock-of-the-rock! Making the most of everything Ecuador has to offer in a single shot is nearly impossible, so we have broken down this exciting destination into a series of wonderful tours, each focusing on a different region in order to fully explore what each has to offer.