Family African Barbets (Lybiidae)

Least Concern

White-headed Barbet (Lybius leucocephalus)


French: Barbican à tête blanche German: Weißkopf-Bartvogel Spanish: Barbudo cabeciblanco

Laimodon leucocephalus


, 1853,

White Nile in extreme South Sudan


Related to L. chaplini and L. rubrifacies, but not very closely; these three, along with L. senex and L. leucogaster (which hitherto considered conspecific with L. leucocephalus; see those species for differences), fairly close also to L. vieilloti. Proposed race usukumae (SE of L Victoria) possibly recognizable: represents populations intermediate between albicauda or lynesi and nominate leucocephalus. Birds from N Tanzania described as race pareensis here considered inseparable from albicauda. Four subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • L. l. adamauae Reichenow, 1921 – N & C Nigeria E to S Chad, W Central African Republic and NW DRCongo.
  • L. l. leucocephalus (Defilippi, 1853) – perhaps E Central African Republic, and South Sudan and NE DRCongo to NW Tanzania and WC Kenya.
  • L. l. albicauda (Shelley, 1881) – SW & S Kenya to N Tanzania.
  • L. l. lynesi C. H. B. Grant & Mackworth-Praed, 1938 – C Tanzania.
  • Descriptive notes

    18–19·5 cm; 45–80·5 g. Distinctive large-bodied, white-headed barbet with much white elsewhere in plumage. Both sexes of nominate race white, apart... read more


    Group “greeting ceremonies” with and without ensuing song, varying racially, with noisy... read more


    Open woodland, streamside trees, bushland with trees, open areas with fig or other fruiting trees,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diverse fruits, including cultivated guavas and others, and figs, and berries; also insects, including termites, flies, ants and others.... read more


    Feb–Jun in N, also Aug–Dec in Kenya (before and after rainy seasons), Dec–Mar in parts of Tanzania and Uganda (but also... read more


    Resident; usually sedentary, but wandering occurs (usually following fruiting trees).

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Uncommon in Nigeria; locally fairly common in Kenya and Tanzania, albeit with some evidence of a range contraction in the extreme SE of the first-... read more

    Recommended citation

    Short, L.L., Horne, J.F.M. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). White-headed Barbet (Lybius leucocephalus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 24 June 2019).