Galbulidae – Jacamars

These agile hunters can catch butterflies and dragonflies mid-flight

These birds are a sight to behold, with their slender bodies, shimmering iridescent plumage, long, thin bills, and elongated tails, features that often draw comparisons to the non-passerine bee-eaters of the Old World. Their beauty is a natural wonder, with metallic hues that glint in the sunlight as they flit through the canopies.

Inhabiting the canopies of woodlands and forest edges, jacamars are a testament to the intricacies of evolution, having developed specialized hunting strategies to thrive in their environment. These birds are predominantly insectivorous, fond of butterflies and moths, which they catch with remarkable aerial agility. Their long, pointed bills are perfectly adapted for this purpose, allowing them to snatch their prey right out of the air with precision and grace.

What is particularly fascinating about the jacamars is their intellectual capability. These birds have the astounding ability to recognize and remember unpalatable prey, such as certain butterflies and moths that may carry toxins or taste unpleasant. This recognition helps them avoid wasting effort on catching these undesirable meals. Even more impressively, jacamars can discern between these unpalatable species and their edible mimics, which is a skill that demonstrates their advanced cognitive abilities and the complexity of their interaction with their ecosystem.

These birds are not only partners in nesting but also in constructing their homes, which they typically build by burrowing into sandy banks or termite mounds. While not flashy, their nests are functional and safe, sheltering their clutches of 2 to 4 eggs. During the breeding season, both parents are actively involved in incubating and caring for their offspring. In some jacamar species, there is even a social structure that extends beyond the nuclear family, with older offspring staying back to act as helpers, aiding their parents in rearing new broods—a behavior known as cooperative breeding.