Capitonidae – New World barbets

This group includes the chunkier versions of the barbets

Barbets are composed of robust, stocky birds known for their vibrant colors and distinct vocalizations. These birds are primarily found in the tropical regions of Africa, Asia, and Central and South America, thriving in wet woodlands and forested areas. The barbets are characterized by their large heads, short necks, and bristle-fringed thick bills, from which they derive their name. These bristles are believed to serve as a sensory function, aiding the birds in detecting prey.

A unique feature of their anatomy is the zygodactyl foot structure, with the first and fourth toes pointing backward, allowing for a strong and stable grip. This adaptation is particularly beneficial for birds like the barbets, which spend a significant amount of time perched on tree branches.

Barbets are predominantly arboreal, spending the majority of their lives in the trees. They are skilled excavators, using their robust bills to chisel out nest cavities in decayed or softwood. This nesting behavior is essential for the survival of their species, as it provides a safe place for barbets to lay their eggs and raise their young away from predators.

The breeding habits of barbets involve both parents in caring for their eggs and chicks. Typically, two to four eggs are laid, and both male and female take turns incubating them. The parents also share the duty of feeding the hatchlings, which require a high-protein diet to support their rapid growth.

Although barbets are primarily frugivorous, feeding on a wide variety of fruits, they are also known to supplement their diet with insects, especially during the breeding season when the demand for protein increases. Their diet includes ants, beetles, moths, and even more formidable prey like scorpions and centipedes. Some species of barbets will also prey on small vertebrates such as frogs, highlighting their adaptability and opportunistic feeding strategies.