Asian Barbets are fruit-eating birds, living in dense forests, and feeding off figs as well as other fruit and insects. They help to disperse seeds in the forest. They are heavily threatened by deforestation, as most species require undisturbed primary forest.
The barbets are divided into Asian, African and South American families. The three barbet families form an infra-order with the toucans, and the toucan barbets. They are in turn related to the woodpeckers. High numbers of toucan and woodpeckers species in South America mean that there are few barbet species there. In Asia, the Greater Sunda islands, and Sumatra in particular, are home to the most barbet species. No barbets are found east of the deep sea trench (the Wallace line) separating Bali from Lombok. Shallow seas, previously land bridges during ice ages spread barbets across the Great Sunda islands.
Their heavy beaks allow them to bore holes in trees, like the related woodpeckers, in which they lay their eggs, which are incubated for around two weeks.
The species of barbets found near Bukit Lawang are:
- Caloramphus hayii - Malay brown barbet (may only be at higher altitudes)
- Psilopogon pyrolophus - fire-tufted barbet
- Megalaima chrysopogon (unconfirmed in local area) - gold-whiskered barbet
- Megalaima rafflesii - red-crowned barbet
- Megalaima mystacophanos - red-throated barbet
- Megalaima oorti (unconfirmed in local area) - black-browed barbet
- Megalaima henricii - yellow-crowned barbet
- Megalaima duvaucelii - blue-eared barbet a.k.a. black-eared barbet
- Megalaima haemacephala delica - coppersmith barbet