The White-cheeked Barbet Megalaima viridis, also known in India as the Small Green Barbet, is very similar to the Brown-headed Barbet (or Large Green Barbet Megalaima zeylanica), but this species is endemic to the forest areas of southern India and has distinctive supercilium and a broad white cheek stripe below the eye. They lack the orange eye-ring of the other species which is mainly found in drier habitats although the ranges of the two species partly overlap.
Like other barbets, they are green, sitting upright and still in a tree, making them difficult to spot. During the breeding season their calls are loud and unmistakeable. The call, a monotonous 'Kot-roo ... Kotroo...' is not easily differentiated from that of the Brown-headed Barbet. During hot afternoons, they also call with a single note 'wut' not unlike the call of Collared Scops Owl.
Close up showing the rictal bristles
The head is brownish, giving a capped appearance and the head is streaked. The bill is pale pinkish. The length is 165-185mm, head of 51-53mm and tail of 60-67mm.
These birds are mostly frugivorous, but will take on termites and other insects opportunistically. They feed on the fruits of various Ficus species including Ficus benjamina and Ficus mysorensis, and other introduced fruit trees such as Muntingia calabura. While foraging they are quite aggressive and will attempt to chase other barbets, Koels and other frugivores.
The main range is along the Western Ghats and along the associated hills of southern India into parts of the southern Eastern Ghats.
Behaviour and ecology
These birds are dominant primary cavity nesters in many parts of their range, making a round hole in the vertical trunk of soft wooded trees. They breed from December to July, sometimes raising two broods. Favoured nest trees in urban areas include Gulmohur Delonix regia and African Tulip Spathodea campanulata. These nest holes are also used as roosts.
They play an important role in forests as seed dispersal agents.
Their fruit eating makes them a minor nuisance in fruit orchards although they are noted as having a beneficial effect in coffee plantations.
A species of tick in the genus Haemaphysalis is known to be specific in its parasitic association to this species while some species of Leucocytozoon are known to be blood parasites. Some species of Haemaphysalis are known to carry the virus responsible for the Kyasanur forest disease.