Skip to Content

Megalaimidae – Asian Barbets

Malabar Barbet in India: Photo by Aseem Kothiala

Megalaimidae, the Asian barbets, comprise a diverse group of colorful birds found primarily in tropical and subtropical forests across South and Southeast Asia. With their stout bodies and large, colorful bills, these birds are prominent fruit-eaters and play a vital role in seed dispersal. They nest in tree cavities, which they often excavate themselves, and their loud, repetitive calls are a characteristic sound of their habitats.

Overview of Megalaimidae

Asian barbets are perhaps the most uniform in appearance among the barbets, with almost all species featuring well-developed rictal bristles, predominantly green or olive-brown plumage, and contrasting primary colors around the head. Their green plumage and preference for canopy fruiting clusters often keep them hidden in the forests of Asia. However, once familiar with their calls, one can appreciate how common they are; their rhythmic, cuckoo-like whistles are among the most consistent bird sounds in Southeast Asian forests.