Barbets are colorful, stout chunky birds with big heads and even bigger, scary-looking beaks. They use their beaks to excavate nesting holes, usually in rotting trees, although some african species nest in termite mounds or make burrows in the ground. All have zygodactyl feet - two toes in front and two in back, like parrots. Some have tufts of feathers on their face, such as the Bearded Barbet and the Fire-Tufted Barbet.
Barbets are in the order Piciformes.
The exact taxonomy is somewhat disputed, but one system divides them into three families: the American barbets (family Capitonidae, 16 species), the Asian barbets (family Megalaimidae, 27 species) and the African barbets (family Lybiidae, 42 species). The toucans are closely related.
The smallest barbet is 3.5 inches long (9 cm) and the largest is around 13 inches (33 cm). Most barbets are primarily herbivorous, eating fruits, berries, and buds, and the occasional insect or small lizard. Some african species are mainly insectivorous.
Barbets are among the most beautifully colored birds; check out the websites listed below for photos.
References and further reading:
american barbets: http://www.montereybay.com/creagrus/barbets.html
african barbets: http://montereybay.com/creagrus/African_barbets.html
asian barbets: http://montereybay.com/creagrus/Asian_barbets.html