The Motmot

by Mindy on February 1, 2012

in Animal Portraits, Bird Art, Costa Rica, Uncategorized

The Blue-Crowned MotMot

Motmots are a family of New World tropical birds related to kingfishers. They can be found nesting in burrows which they dig themselves into cliffs Most motmots are medium-sized (robin size or larger).They are usually spotted sitting in trees because they sit-and-wait to catch large insects, small reptiles or mammals. They also eat fruits.

The Blue-crowned Motmot is the most widely distributed motmot, and is found from Mexico to Argentina in lowland forests, on up to 1300 meters. It’s fairly tolerant of somewhat disturbed habitats.

The thing that I love most about the motmot is its tail. They have a unique spatulate tail. When a new tail feather grows it looks like any other feather. The only difference is that a portion of the lower section of the two center feathers have weakly-attached feather barbs. The barbs fall off the shaft creating a bare stretch of feather shaft, with a spatula-shaped tip at the end. Males will often pull more barbs off their tails to make a greater display for onlooking females.

Motmots use their tails to  swing like the pendulum on a clock. This behavior is used mostly when a predator is in the general area. It seems that the swaying motion deters rather than attracts the predator.


It was a joy to see these birds in the wild in Costa Rica. The lighting was very dark and I had to use a high ISO- 1600 in order to get enough light to take the pictures. I was also pretty far away and used my zoom lens to 24x. The result is a very grainy photograph.
I am hoping that I got enough information and detail to paint these fabulous birds. Maybe I will see them again and get some better pics.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Vicki Lee Johnston February 2, 2012 at 1:50 am

Stunning bird and a stunning photo.  Costa Rica really suits you Mindy – such colour and vibrancy.
Can you share which camera and lens you use?  I am heading off on travels and want to take something with a very good zoom ….

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