What’s in a name?: A bird called ‘Pokpok’

December 14, 2022 - 1:41 PM
Photo shows pokpok bird (Alain Pascua via Haring Ibon)

One of the most popular places to go birdwatching in Metro Manila is the University of the Philippines Diliman in Quezon City. 

Among the birds you can spot in the lush green campus is the Coppersmith Barbet, locally known as Pokpok. It is said to be the only species of Barbet occurring in the Philippines, according to Haring Ibon. 

Pokpok recently gained online buzz after it was featured on Esquire and other Philippine Facebook pages.

Many got curious about the bird’s name which translates to prostitute in English.

“The name is legit?” a Facebook user asked.

“Never seen this bird before,” another said.

Pokpok’s local name is based on the low-pitched hammer sound it produces. 

According to a study by Eduard Bellen shared by the UP Wild, 55% of a bird’s etymology in the country is based on the sound it makes. 

“It gets its English name for its metronomic call that sounds similar to the hammering of a coppersmith “pok-pok-pok” sound which is also attributed for its local name in Filipino,” Haring Ibon said.

Aside from being known for the sound it creates, Pokpok can be identified by its green with a red head, yellow cheeks, and throat. 

It is 15 to 17 centimeters long and weighs 30 to 52.6 grams. 

Pokpok, that lives in gardens, groves and sparse woodland, typically feeds on fruits but there are some instances when it devours insects. 

“It is mainly frugivorous (meaning fruit-eating) but will occasionally consume insects, especially winged termites. It uses its chisel-like bill in carving out holes on trees for nesting,” Haring Ibon said.

Causes of death

Adult coppersmith barbet often dies when taken by predatory species.

In urban areas, these birds also die of collisions with structures with white paint. Some of these birds also die due to pesticide poisoning. 

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