Featured Bird: Blue-crowned Motmot

Blue-crowned Motmot by Alan Dahl

The Blue-crowned Motmots (Momotus momota) have been spending a lot of time around a Nance tree (Byrsonima crassifolia), a prolific fruit producing tree in the garden here at Friends of the Osa’s Osa Biodiversity Center.  Lately there have been quite a few hanging around giving their distinctive soft low pitch “moot moot” call at dawn which has sounded like a large choral group, each bird with its own perfectly timed solo, and the group never missing a beat.  With the Nance fruiting right next to the house, one of them actually flew through the front door the other day making me realize that it was time to share this species with you on the blog.  Oh and by the way, he or she did find its way out of the house fairly quickly.

In this species the male and female look alike and as you can see from Alan Dahl’s photograph, they are brilliantly colored.  Motmots in general have two very distinct features worth noting: the racquet-shaped tail and a heavily serrated bill.  The tail is more than half the birds total length and has two long central feathers.  During feather preening sections of the tail barbs fall off leaving the exposed vane.  The tip of the feather or the racquet remains intact forming what looks like a racquet head.  Motmots are famous for slowly and methodically swinging their tail feather back and forth like a pendulum.

The bill has tooth like serrations allowing them to take small snakes and lizards as well as other insects and tear them apart.  They also accompany army ant swarms picking off what the other birds kick-up from the ground.  And yes, they like fruit.

A third and very interesting characteristic of the Motmot is the fact that they dig their nest into burrows.  They are most closely related to Kingfishes and todies which also dig into burrows.  Motmots excavate tunnels in the bank of a road or stream or in the side of a pit or hollow in the ground.  Their nests are unlined and can wind as far back as 5 – 14 feet (1.5 – 4 meters).  Now I don’t know about you all but I have a hard time seeing such a beautiful majestic bird digging a long tunnel in the dirt and coming out looking that good, but I truly hope to see it someday.

You can see the Blue-crowned Motmot all over Costa Rica, and at least at the moment, all over Cerro Osa on the Osa Peninsula.  You can also find them from Mexico down through Argentina and in just about any type of habitat most often perched in the shade saying “moot moot, moot moot”!

We would like to thank Alan Dahl for allowing us to showcase his photographs.  You can find his work at Focused On Nature.


Featured Bird: Violaceous Trogon

Violaceous Trogon by Tyler Reynolds

This week’s bird, the Violaceous Trogon (Trogon violaceus) jumped out at me (not literally) as I was having my morning coffee on my front porch here at Friends of the Osa’s Osa Biodiversity Center on Cerro Osa.   I was watching all the typical dawn action, mainly the Tropical Kingbirds and Gray-capped Flycatchers being overly vociferous when I saw another yellow bellied bird perched calmly on a Virola tree branch.  This particular belly though was accompanied by a violet head, a beautiful long black and white barred tail and the distinctive yellow eye ring of the Violaceous Trogon.  The female Violaceous is distinguished from her mate by her gray head and elliptical eye ring.  I have since noticed that this male trogon as of late is always perched on that same branch every morning in its upright posture, not for long, but long enough for me to finish my coffee and get a good look.

There are 40 trogon species in the warm regions of the world, ten of which are found in Costa Rica.  Four species can be found here on the Osa Peninsula: the Black-throated Trogon, the Slaty-tailed Trogon, Baird’s Trogon and the Violaceous Trogon.  You can see all four species here on Friends of the Osa properties.  You just have to look very carefully as they can be somewhat still.

You can find them in wet lowland forest and also along edges and open areas.  They will hover to pluck fruit or insects from the vegetation and are known to eat wasps.  In fact, Violaceous Trogons have been known to nest inside wasp nests, termite nests and arboreal nests of Azteca ants.  Naturalist Alexander Skutch observed a pair actually nesting inside a wasp nest (vespiary).  The Trogons built their own nest inside the vespiary in the early morning hours before the wasps became active.  During the day the Trogons would hunt the wasps taking them from the air or from the surface of the vespiary.  Interestingly, the wasps never drove the Trogons from their nest nor did the Trogons ever eliminate all the wasps, but they did successfully fledge young.

You can find the Violaceous Trogon on either coastal slope of Costa Rica and it ranges from Mexico down through Amazonian Brazil.  And yes, for those of you who may be wondering, the Resplendent Quetzal is also in the Trogon family and found in the Tilaran, Central and Talamanca Cordilleras here in Costa Rica.

Keep an eye out down the road as I will also devote a page to the Baird’s Trogon since it is endemic to Costa Rica and Panama and vulnerable to extinction according to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

This week’s photograph was taken here on the Cerro Osa property just today by Friends of the Osa’s Tyler Reynolds.

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