Turquoise-browed Motmot, Bird - Vertebrate

Turquoise-browed Motmot (Eumomota superciliosa)Spanish name: Momoto Cejiceleste, Pajaro Bobo

Within its range, this species of motmot can survive in a variety of habitats, but it prefers tropical deciduous and tropical evergreen gallery forest. It may also be found in forest edges and mangroves; savanna trees and thickets, particularly during the wet season; and dry open regions.

The Turqoise-browed ranges from southeast Mexico to Costa Rica. It is common all year in the lowlands of the northern Pacific slope up to 800 m, and occasionally seen in the Valle Central.

Physical Description
Although this bird nests in burrows, it also perches in plain view on telephone wires or fence posts next to roads. Their rough, hoarse calls include a distinct honk and kawukawuk.

The Turquoise-browed is small for a motmot, but its body is covered in color and pattern.
Besides the motmot's typical black mask around the eyes, the Turqoise-browed also has black and turquoise streaks on its face and throat. Its head and breast are olive green, but the back and underside are rufous, the underside a shade lighter. This motmot's shape is distinct due to its two long tail feathers that have racket-tips at the end of long bare shafts. This feather shape is not genetic, but instead develops as the weaker middle portion of the feather is rubbed off against branches or other objects.

Interesting Biology
This bird digs burrows 0.6 to 2.5 m long that are 8 cm in diameter, often in the bank exposed next to a road or stream. A mating pair shares the work of excavating the burrow, incubating the 3 to 4 eggs, and feeding the young. Biologists have found that, without teaching, these birds avoid poisonous coral snakes, but not nonpoisonous ones that can serve as a meal.

When perched, motmots often swing their tails like pendulums; when they are sallying for food, they will sit quietly until they swiftly swoop onto their prey. On returning to their branch or other originally location, they beat the prey against the perch before swallowing it. This bird usually lives alone, in a pair, or in a family group.

The Turqoise-browed Motmots use their large powerful beaks to snatch ground prey such as large beetles, insects, and spiders, as well as small lizards and snakes. They also eat fruit and catch butterflies, bees, and dragonflies mid-flight.

This species of motmot weighs 60 to 65 g and is 34 cm long.

Brief Taxonomy
Order: Coraciiformes
Family: Momotidae

Janzen, Daniel H. Costa Rican Natural History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.

Skutch, Alexander F. and F. Gary Stiles. A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica. Utica: Cornell University Press, 1989.

Smith, S. M. in: Janzen, Daniel H. Costa Rican Natural History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.

Stiles, F. G. in: Janzen, Daniel H. Costa Rican Natural History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.

-Amy Strieter, Wildlife Writer