2 minute read

Todies: Todidae

Behavior And Reproduction

Todies generally appear as vivid green birds that fly rapidly with bounce-like actions through the woods in pairs while chirping to each other. They often accompany such behaviors with loud nasal beeps, grating and monotonous "neet" or "prrrrreeet," or harsh chatter. Their calls help to distinguish the various species. They are generally territorial (protecting an area from other birds), but will temporarily join other species that are feeding within their territories. They spend much of the day, either alone or in pairs, sitting motionless on perches of small twigs. They normally perch with their bills in an uplifted position.

Todies catch their prey by a graceful stunt-plane-like technique in which the head is directed upward while the bird scans the undersides of leaves and twigs. While jerking its head and moving its eyes, it darts upward at a shallow angle and flies at a short curved path in order to grab an insect and continue the end of its flight at another perch. They may also hover in midair in order to catch prey.

Todies are homeotherms; that is, they have body temperatures like humans in which metabolic rates and temperatures are controlled. At times, todies can become very inactive to conserve energy. Such dormant periods occur when they cannot eat because of the darkness at night and during long periods of heavy rain. Females also become dormant in order to save their energy while breeding. Todies do not migrate.

Todies often show courtship displays of hovering and zooming that involve great amounts of whirling and crackling of the wings. The flapping of the wings (sometimes called wing-rattling) is similar to the noise heard when pulling a finger quickly across a comb. Males and females pursue each other at very fast speeds, weaving around foliage. Once paired, both will exchange freshly caught insects.

When ready to start a family, they dig tube-shaped, angled tunnels in vertical soil embankments from February to May. One tunnel may take eight weeks to finish. Bills chisel out the soil, while their feet push the soil away. Tody eggs are much larger than eggs of other similarly sized birds, with eggs weighing about 26 percent of the adult's body weight (with typical egg-to-body weight in birds from 2 to 11 percent). Tody females lay one clutch, or set of eggs, per year, with two to five eggs per clutch. If destroyed, females will produce another clutch.

Eggs are tiny, white, glossy, and roundish. Incubation periods (time spent sitting on eggs) last twenty-one to twenty-two days, while nestling periods (time a young bird spends at the nest after hatching) are between nineteen and twenty days. Each parent spends only two to three daylight hours incubating. Hatching occurs usually in the late afternoon. Nestlings are born naked, with cushioned heels that cover the feet. Young remain in the nest until they can fly.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsTodies: Todidae - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Behavior And Reproduction, Cuban Tody (todus Multicolor): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, DIET, TODIES AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS