Reproductive biology

During breeding season, male jacamars engage in lively vocal performances, with a series of explosive, sharp calls. Two rival males use this display of courtship and verbal bravado to impress a potential mate. Jacamars form monogamous pairs.

Jacamars dig holes for nests in steep river banks. They use the bill to break up the soil, then remove it by kicking back wards with their feet as they burrow. These tunnels also can be found some distance from the water, on soil banks or roots of fallen trees. The nest sits at the end of the tunnel in a horizontal, oval-shaped terminal chamber. Some jacamars, including the rufous-tailed jacamar, may use termite nests for breeding if no appropriate site to dig a ground tunnel can be found. Tunnels are 12-36 in (30-91 cm) long and about 2 in (5 cm) in diameter. The nest chamber is used repeatedly and does not contain nest material, although eggs often are covered with a layer of regurgitated insect parts. In some species, male and female participate in building the nest hole; in other species only the female does this work.

Jacamars lay one to four round, glossy, white eggs. Both parents incubate the eggs during the day for one to three hours at a time. At night, the female incubates alone while the male stays nearby to defend the nest. Jacamars rarely leave eggs unattended. During incubation, the male feeds his partner several times each day. The incubation period is 20-23 days.

Both parents feed the young with insects. Chicks remain in the nest 21-26 days. Unlike other species, young pale-headed jacamars (Brachygalba goeringi) may return to the burrow to sleep with the parents for several months after they fledge.

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