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Motmots: Momotidae

Physical Characteristics

Motmots are impressive-looking, robust birds that look somewhat like kingfishers. Male and female motmots have a similar appearance. The birds have bright shades of green and blue colors, a black mask, and a long racquet-tipped tail in most species.

The longish, powerful bill curves slightly downward at the tip, and, in most species, the bill has notches like saw teeth along the edges that are used for cutting. The tongue is somewhat long. Legs are short, with each foot having three front toes and a rear toe. The middle front toe is almost completely joined to the inner toe.

The short wings are rounded. Plumage (feathers) is bright green or turquoise green on the back and tail of all species, with specks of soft blue or reddish brown on the wings and tail. Some species have brilliant blue or emerald stripes along the side of the head. There is a mixture of browns and greens on the underbody.

Several species have green or brown crowns (feathers at the top of the head) but most species have crowns of turquoise, blue, or black. Several species have a black spot on the breast. All birds have a black mark through or near the eyes; in some species, the mark is accented by thin turquoise stripes above and below. A group of black feathers at the chin and throat is characteristic of all motmots.

The tail is broad and long and sharply tapers at the base. The central pair of feathers is extra long. Barbs (parts of a feather) near the tail fall off readily, resulting in the shaft looking bare in spots. At these empty spots, a small oval disk remains.

Motmots are 6 to 21 inches (16 to 53 centimeters) long, and weigh between 0.9 and 7.4 ounces (25 and 210 grams).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsMotmots: Momotidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Blue-crowned Motmot (momotus Momota): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, MOTMOTS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS