Skip to Content

Lybiidae – African Barbets

Black-throated Barbet in Kenya: Photo by Nathan Mixon

African barbets, belonging to the family Lybiidae, include around 40 species found throughout sub-Saharan Africa. These brightly colored birds with stout bills are known for their loud, repetitive calls and are commonly seen in forests and savannas. They feed on fruits and insects and often nest in tree cavities, sometimes excavating them themselves.

Overview of Lybiidae

From the tiny tinkerbird with its dainty bill to the large Pogonornis barbet with a hefty toothed bill, Lybiidae is the most morphologically diverse barbet family. They vary greatly in rictal bristle development and facial feathering; some species have naked heads, while others have bills almost obscured by long, pressed bristles. Unique among barbets, some Lybiids spend significant time on the ground and nest in earthen banks instead of tree cavities. While they consume a lot of fruit, they may also be the most insectivorous of all barbets.