The few accounts of sharpbills in the wild describe them as "stolid," even "sluggish" birds prone to brief bouts of abrupt movement. In between lengthy periods of branch sitting, sharpbills will launch into fast, direct flights between trees, or make rapid sorties for food.

They are most often solitary birds, and usually hang back even when part of mixed foraging flocks. Owing to their generally inconspicuous coloration and demeanor, sharpbills can be difficult to observe.

Stiles and Whitney observed male Costa Rican sharpbills (O. c. cristatus) alternate between vocalizing from conspicuous perches and active, but silent, defense of overlapping territories from other males. Noting that the defenders seemed happy to welcome females into those same territories, the authors concluded that the cluster of ranges functioned as an exploded lek (mating ground).

The sharpbill call is a high, rough, slightly descending trill, transcribed by one observer as "eeeeuuuurrrr." It has been likened to the call of cicadas, certain cotingas, and the three-toed sloth.

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