The puffbirds and their relatives in the near passerine family Bucconidae are tropical tree-dwelling insectivorous birds that are found from South America up to Mexico. Together with their closest relatives, the jacamars, they form a divergent lineage within the order Piciformes, though the two families are sometimes elevated to a separate order Galbuliformes. Lacking the iridescent colours of the jacamars, puffbirds are mainly brown, rufous or grey, with large heads, large eyes, and flattened bills with a hooked tip. Their loose, abundant plumage and short tails makes them look stout and puffy, giving rise to the English name of the family. The species range in size from the rufous-capped nunlet, at 13 cm (5.1 in) and 14 g (0.49 oz), to the white-necked puffbird, at up to 29 cm (11 in) and 106 g (3.7 oz).
Puffbirds are found from Mexico to southern Brazil, with the greatest variety of species found in the Amazon Basin. They live in forested or wooded habitats, including lowland, foothills, and open woodland. The white-faced nunbird is the only member of this species known to live in highlands. The swallow-winged puffbird also lives in more open country. No species of puffbirds have been recorded of moving any significant distance beyond its home territory.