Rufous Motmot

A sluggish bird of tropical forest, the Rufous Motmot has the small legs and feet and large bill of a bird that sits and waits for prey to appear in its vicinity. It lives in lowland and hill forest, and in mature secondary forest (where trees have regrown after clearance). Most of the time it sits high in the trees on a branch, living out to seize an insect from a leaf or a branch in a sudden, abrupt movement. Occasionally it drops to the ground to capture a small creature, and at times it follows columns of army ants to seize insects and other small animals as they try to escape from the ants. Prey items include many kinds of insects or invertebrates and small animals such as mice or lizards. The downcurved bill has serrated edges which ensure a firm grip on the prey. Larger creatures are carried back and beaten against the perch, to kill them before they are swallowed. The birds also feed on small fruits, which are plucked in hovering flight. Rufous Motmots live singly or in pairs. Their calls arc-often heard from high in the trees at dawn, when birds make contact with other individuals, amid considerable-noise. Each utters a soft, owllike hooting sound that echoes through the trees, making the bird hard to locate.

• NEST An unlined chamber at the end of a burrow dug by the breeding pair in a bank or in the side of a gully.

• DlSTRIBl 1TION Two populations: one from Nicaragua south to W. Ecuador, and one in the western Amazon Basin.

• REMARK This is the largest species of motmot.

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