Todidae – Todies

Smallest and most active feeders of all the birds found in diversified habitats; laying huge eggs as compared to bird’s size

A group of small, vibrantly colored birds known as todies, which are endemic to the Caribbean. These diminutive birds, typically weighing between 5-7 grams (0.1-0.2 ounces) and measuring 10-11.5 centimeters (3.9-4.5 inches) in length, are recognized for their disproportionately large heads, iridescent green plumage on their backs, and striking red and black beaks which give them a distinctive appearance reminiscent of kingfishers and hummingbirds.

Todies are remarkable for their vivid coloration and the distinct markings and hues that adorn their flanks, bellies, and cheeks. These variations in plumage play a crucial role in species recognition and are one of the many splendors of these birds. Additionally, each species within the Todidae family has its unique vocalizations, which become particularly evident during the breeding season. These calls are an integral part of their mating rituals and territorial behaviors.

The diet of todies is primarily composed of small insects, making them important in controlling insect populations. They have a voracious appetite for various insects, such as grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, bugs, butterflies, ants and wasps. Their hunting technique is quite agile as they typically catch their prey on the wing, using their sharp beaks to snatch insects from the air or foliage.

When it comes to reproduction, todies exhibit fascinating nesting behaviors. Every breeding season, they excavate deep tunnels in steep banks or the soft, rotten wood of trees. They use their beaks and feet to create these burrows, providing a safe haven for their eggs and a nursery for their chicks. The parental investment of todies is extraordinary, with both parents sharing the duties of incubating the eggs and feeding the chicks. Their feeding frequency is one of the highest recorded among birds, with parents delivering food to the chicks up to 140 times a day, a testament to the high energy demands of their growing offspring.