A big dark barbet of humid forest of low and middle elevations. The back is black with yellow spotting and the underparts are yellow with black striping and spotting. The head pattern varies geographically. The throat can be striped or solid black, and the face can be speckled (central Africa) or black with a white eyebrow and moustache mark (northern and western parts of the range). Somewhat similar to Yellow-spotted Barbet, but larger overall with a bigger bill and a dark cap. Usually detected by voice: a long, slow series of low, hollow hoots. Occasionally also gives a much faster tooting series.
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