Motmots resemble kingfishers and have similar habits, although they are not found near water. They range from 6 to 20 in (16-50 cm), and 0.9-7.4 oz (25-210 g). The bill curves downward at the tip and in most species has serrated edges along the tomia (cutting edges of the bill). The tongue is relatively long. The tarsus is short and the middle toe is almost completely joined to the inner toe; there is only one rear toe. The wings are short and rounded. Plumage is soft blue or reddish brown; some species have blue or emerald stripes at the side of the head. A group of black feathers at chin and throat is characteristic of all motmots.
The tail is spatulate. The central pair of feathers is elongated, and barbs near the tail fall off readily, leaving part of the shaft of these feathers bare and resembling a thin wire. This barren area gives way to an oval disk at the feather tip where the barbs are retained, forming the spatu-late-shaped racquet tip. The tody motmot is the smallest family member, characterized by more drab coloration and a shorter tail with no racquet tip. The blue-throated motmot (Aspatha gularis) also lacks a racquet-tipped tail.
These birds exhibit jerky tail twitching when disturbed. Male and female are similar in all species.
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