Momotidae – Motmots

Native to Central and South America, having colorful plumage and thick bills

Found primarily in Central and South America, these birds are a tropical delight, displaying a rich tapestry of mostly green coloration complemented by touches of blue, black, and sometimes reddish markings. The black feathers that highlight their chin and throat area serve as a unique identifier, setting them apart from other avian species.

Unlike their ecological counterparts, the kingfishers and motmots are not strictly bound to aquatic environments, although they share similar foraging habits. Their diet is eclectic, encompassing various food items, including insects, reptiles like small lizards, various small invertebrates, and a selection of fruits. This varied diet allows motmots to thrive in a range of forested environments, from dense rainforests to shaded coffee plantations.

Motmots are typically solitary creatures but form strong pair bonds during the breeding season. They exhibit monogamous behavior and are known for their biparental care, with both males and females investing considerable effort in rearing their offspring. The construction of their nests is a marvel of natural engineering. Motmots excavate lengthy tunnels, sometimes extending up to 16 feet (5 meters) into riverbanks, caves, or rock crevices, where they lay their eggs and raise their chicks in relative safety from predators.

A particularly fascinating aspect of motmot behavior is their distinctive tail-wagging. When threatened or on high alert, a motmot will wag its tail in a pendulum-like fashion. This behavior is thought to serve multiple purposes; it may be a way to signal to predators that the motmot is vigilant and not worth pursuing, or it could be a means of communication between members of a pair or family group. Additionally, this tail movement can help the birds maintain balance and readiness to flee if necessary.