Broadbills are brightly coloured birds that feed on fruit and also take insects in flycatcher fashion, snapping their broad bills. They range from 13 to 28 centimetres in length, and live in the dense canopies of wet forests, allowing them to hide despite their brightly coloured plumage.
They are generally gregarious, with many species moving about in flocks of about 20 individuals. Broadbills attach their purse-shaped nests to suspended vines, and leave a tail of fibres hanging below it. This gives the nest the appearance of being random debris caught in the tree, an effect further enhanced by the birds covering the nest with lichen and spider webs. Broadbills typically lay two to three eggs.
The Sapayoa was originally classified in the group Pipridae, according to at least one author, the genus more accurately fits the broadbill family. The four species of asities, a family endemic to Madagascar, are sometimes included in the broadbills (Prum 1993).
There are five subfamilies of broadbills.