February 12

The Zambian Barbet Survey – A Gem Of Zambia


The Bird engraved on the Zambian 1 kwacha coin – the Zambian Barbet or Chaplin’s Barbet is endemic, a true Zambian bird. Although found only in Zambia it is restricted to South and Central Zambia to specific areas which meet their habitat conditions. They are found almost exclusively in open woodland where the fig, Ficus sycomorus – their favourite food source and nesting tree is abundant.

The Zambian Barbet measures up to 19 cm in length (including the tail), and weighs between 64 – 75 grams. They have a large head and a heavy bill fringed with bristles. Its plumage is mostly white and ruffled, except for the distinctive red markings around the eyes. The tail is black and the wings are black and edged yellow.
It typically nests in cavities in the branches of dead or live fig trees and usually occur in small solitary groups of two to six individuals; and these groups aggressively defend their territories against intruders. As part of its call, it snaps its bill loudly together while emitting a chorus of buzzy, grating notes-a song described as an accelerating, noisy cackle. The Zambian Barbet eats a variety of fruits, including figs (primarily Ficus sycomorus). They will also visit plantations and feed on cultivated fruit and vegetables.  In addition to fruit, they also eat a wide range of insects. Just like any other bird, they are important to the ecosystem: they are agents of seed dispersal, they aid in plant pollination and help in pest control by feeding on insects and various pest species.  

What we can do to help this populations of this endemic bird to thrive:

  • Planting of native trees in our areas-attracting native insects that these birds can feed on.
  • We can control the use of herbicides and pesticides -hazardous pollutants that affect birds at many levels. 
  • Educate people on the importance of protecting this endemic species and learn about how interesting and important they are.
  • Avoid participating in shooting, trapping or harassing activities and report such activities local wildlife enforcement offices.
  • Prevent habitat destruction- the best way to protect endemic species is to protect the special places where they live. Do not cut down trees anyhow!
  • Finally, we can plant fig trees in our areas. This will attract these birds to make these trees their home.

Preventing Extinction

Bird species go extinct due to a broad range of reasons, including: Habitat loss , starvation as a result of food shortages, hunting and poaching, nest raiding and poisoning. In some cases, certain species are lost because they are too sensitive to habitat.

Reduce Extinction Risks – Your efforts can help reduce the risk of extinction, and the more birders who take those steps, the larger the overall impact will be and the more bird species will benefit.

  • Know more about Endangered Species and protect them – The first step towards prevention of extinction is being aware of species that need conservation help and learning how to lower the risks of extinction.
  • Support Species Conservation Programs – Supporting conservation programs can be done through funding conservation work, joining or volunteering in conservation work or making donations to conservation groups, bird rescue organizations or wildlife rehabilitators.
  • Protect Habitats/Key Biodiversity Areas – Protecting these areas increases their chance of survival.
  • Talk about it – Introducing more people to birds and birding to minimise the risk of extinctions, because the more people who are involved in protecting birds, the greater and more effective those protections will be.
  • Curb Artificial Risks to Birds – reduce human induced threats or risks dramatically.
  • Be a citizen scientist

Everyone is a citizen scientist. You can take part in monitoring birds and contribute to their conservation by recording your bird sightings in your garden and surroundings, creating checklists using eBird and Merlin Apps developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and share checklists!

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is one of BirdWatch Zambia’s key partners. It is a member-supported unit of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York USA, which studies birds and other wildlife. Approximately 250 scientists, professors, staff, and students work in a variety of programs devoted to the Lab’s mission: interpreting and conserving the Earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds.

eBird is an online database of bird observations providing scientists, researchers and amateur naturalists with real-time data about bird distribution and abundance. Originally restricted to sightings from the Western Hemisphere, the project expanded to cover the whole world in June 2010. eBird has been described as an ambitious example of enlisting amateurs to gather data on biodiversity for use in science. eBird is an example of crowdsourcing and has been hailed as an example of democratising science, treating citizens as scientists, and allowing the public to access and use their own data and the collective data generated by others.

Link to eBird: https://ebird.org/zambia/home

How can you become a Citizen Scientist?;

  1. Take the free online eBird Essentials Course: https://academy.allaboutbirds.org/product/ebird-essentials/
  2. Getting started/Installing eBird: https://support.ebird.org/en/support/solutions/articles/48001158707-get-started-with-ebird
  3. Getting Started/Installing Merlin: https://support.ebird.org/en/support/solutions/48000450743
  4. Report your bird sightings


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