Feeding ecology and diet

As an entirely insectivorous family, jacamars prefer large, showy, flying insects. Their diet consists of butterflies, moths, wasps, dragonflies, and flying beetles. A long, forceps-like bill allows the jacamar to grasp its prey while keeping it at enough of a distance to avoid becoming blinded by fluttering wings or injured by a stinging insect. Once they catch an insect, ja-camars batter it against a tree branch to kill it, and remove the wings before swallowing.

Favorite food sources include beautiful blue morpho butterflies, hawk moths, and venomous Hymenoptera such as bees and wasps. Skutch also observed a preference for butterflies and dragonflies. In his work, Chai described how young rufous-tailed jacamars in Costa Rica learned to discriminate between butterfly species by color, markings, and flight patterns. Jacamars tend to reject butterflies with chemical defenses that make them less palatable. With their specialized hunting skills, jacamars may have played a major role in the evolution of butterflies that live in jacamar habitats.

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