The Prong-Billed Barbet (Semnornis frantzii)


Time for another #BeakoftheWeek species profile! We’re hitting up the Semnornithidae family today with the prong-billed barbet.

Prong-billed barbet

Prong-billed barbet (Semnornis frantzii)

The prong-billed barbet is confined to a small range between the Caribbean slope of Costa Rica and western Panama.  You will usually encounter them foraging in the forest canopy in pairs or in groups of 12+ birds.

Although not the biggest of birds at 18cm and around 60g, or the most flamboyantly coloured, they do have a fancy beak, which you might expect given their name.  There beak is a little unusual given that there are two little prongs on the lower mandible and a hook on the upper mandible that fits between them. I am yet to find out why this is, but when I do I will be sure to let you know.  I do know that they are mainly frugivorous with the odd insect thrown in for good measure.

The pair excavate dead trees or branches between 3 and 18m high to make their nests over 8 days in which 4-5 eggs will be laid.  Both adults incubate that eggs over 14-15 days and then take care of feeding and brooding duties between them after their altricial chicks hatch.  The pair actively defends their territory during the breeding season (March to June).

This species is of ‘Least Concern’ on the IUCN redlist as it is common within its range.  Check out this link to a website I am sure you all know by now for some prong-billed calls.  Also a new feature for the blogs is this onezoom link which I will let you explore for yourselves.


BirdLife International 2012. Semnornis frantzii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 10 July 2015.

Buckio, Brandon. 2011. Prong-billed Barbet (Semnornis frantzii), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online:

Short, L.L., Horne, J.F.M. & Kirwan, G.M. (2013). Prong-billed Barbet (Semnornis frantzii). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.) (2013). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 10 July 2015).


Prong-billed barbet” by Flickr-user Clickor is licensed under CC BY 2.0.