Lybiidae – African barbets

This group is in between toucans and woodpackers

This family comprises the African barbets, a group of robust and stocky birds with an appearance that’s often likened to that of a plump fruit. These birds are distinctively known for their large heads and heavy bills, which are edged with bristles that aid them in foraging. They vary in size, typically ranging from 20 cm (8 inches) to 25 cm (10 inches) in length, though the group also includes the smaller tinkerbirds, such as the Red-rumped Tinkerbird, which is a mere 7 grams (0.2 ounces) in weight and measures around 9 cm (3.5 inches) in length.

African barbets are mostly solitary, with a diet that includes a wide variety of insects and fruits, making them an important part of the ecological web as pollinators and seed dispersers. These birds are particularly fond of figs and other fruit-bearing trees and shrubs, and their diverse diet means a single barbet may feast on up to 60 different species of plants within its range. This diverse diet is crucial for their survival, especially in habitats where food sources may fluctuate seasonally.

In addition to natural fruit sources, African barbets are also known to venture into farmlands, where they indulge in cultivated fruits and vegetables. This behavior can bring them into conflict with farmers, but it also underscores the adaptability of these birds to changing environments.

When consuming fruit, barbets swallow it whole and later regurgitate indigestible parts, such as seed pits. This regurgitation often occurs before their vocal performances, which consist of a variety of calls and songs that are as colorful and vibrant as the birds themselves. These vocalizations serve multiple purposes, including mate attraction, territorial defense, and communication within the species.