motmot n : tropical American bird resembling a blue jay and having greenish and bluish plumage [syn: momot]
The motmots or Momotidae are a family of tropical birds in the near passerine order Coraciiformes, which also includes the kingfishers, bee-eaters and rollers.
These are medium-sized species of dense forests. They are restricted to the tropical New World (though a fossil has been found in Switzerland; see below). These birds have colorful plumage and long, graduated tails, which they move back and forth in a wag-display that commonly draws attention to an otherwise hidden bird. Research indicates that motmots perform the wag-display when they detect predators (based on studies on Turquoise-browed motmot) and that the display is likely to communicate that the motmot is aware of the predator and is prepared to escape. This form of interspecific pursuit-deterrent signal provides a benefit to both the motmot and the predator: the display prevents the motmot from wasting time and energy fleeing, and the predator avoids a costly pursuit that is unlikely to result in capture.
There is also evidence that the male tail, which is slightly larger than the female tail, functions as a sexual signal in the turquoise-browed motmot.
In all but the first two species listed below, the barbs near the ends of the two longest (central) tail feathers are weak and fall off due to abrasion with substrates, or fall off during preening, leaving a length of bare shaft, thus creating the racket shape of the tail. It was however wrongly believed in the past that the Motmot shaped its tail by plucking part of the feather web to leave the racket. This was based on inaccurate reports made by Charles William Beebe.. It has since been shown that these barbs are weakly attached and fall off due to abrasion with substrates and during routing preening.
Motmots eat small prey such as insects and lizards, and will also take fruit. In Costa Rica, Dr. Terry L. Master observed a Broad-Billed Motmot feeding poison dart frogs to its chicks.
Like most of the Coraciiformes, motmots nest in tunnels in banks, laying about four white eggs.
The Turquoise-browed Motmot is a national bird in Nicaragua (known as the guardabarranco, "ravine-guard") and in El Salvador (known there as Torogoz).
- Genus Hylomanes
- Tody Motmot, Hylomanes momotula
- Genus Aspatha
- Blue-throated Motmot, Aspatha gularis
- Genus Momotus
- Genus Baryphthengus
- Genus Electron
- Genus Eumomota
- Turquoise-browed Motmot, Eumomota superciliosa
A fossil genus of Oligocene prehistoric motmots from Switzerland has been described as Protornis. A partial momotid humerus found in early Hemphilian (Late Miocene, c.8 mya) deposits in Alachua County, USA has not been named; it might belong to an extant genus (Becker 1986).
- Murphy, Troy G. (2006). Predator-elicited visual signal: why the turquoise-browed motmot wag-displays its racketed tail. Behavioral Ecology 17:547-553.
- Murphy, Troy G. (2007). Lack of melanized keratin and barbs that fall off: how the racketed tail of the turquoise-browed motmot Eumomota superciliosa is formed. Journal of Avian Biology 38:139-143.
- Murphy, Troy G. (2007). Racketed tail of the male and female turquoise-browed motmot: male but not female tail length correlates with pairing success, performance, and reproductive success. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 61:911-918.
- Murphy, Troy G. (2007). Dishonest ‘preemptive’ pursuit-deterrent signal? Why the turquoise-browed motmot wags its tail before feeding nestlings. Animal Behaviour 73: 965-970.
- Becker, Jonathan J. (1986): A Fossil Motmot (Aves: Momotidae) from the Late Miocene of Florida. Condor 88(4): 478-482. PDF fulltext
motmot in Danish: Motmoter
motmot in German: Sägeracken
motmot in Spanish: Motmotidae
motmot in French: Momotidae
motmot in Japanese: ハチクイモドキ科 (Sibley)
motmot in Dutch: Motmots
motmot in Norwegian: Motmoter
motmot in Polish: Piłodzioby
motmot in Portuguese: Juruva
motmot in Turkish: Motmot