7 Fascinating Jacamar Facts: Unveiling the Wonders of Nature’s Jewel

Step into a world of awe-inspiring beauty as we unravel the wonders of jacamars. These stunning avian gems dazzle us with their vibrant feathers, graceful flight, and remarkable hunting prowess. Let’s dive into jacamar facts to see what’s special about them!

Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Piciformes
Family: Galbulidae

Step into a world of awe-inspiring beauty as we unravel the wonders of jacamars. These stunning avian gems dazzle us with their vibrant feathers, graceful flight, and remarkable hunting prowess. Let’s dive into jacamar facts to see what’s special about them!

1. They have captivating appearances

Jacamars are beautiful birds known for their vibrant colors and distinctive features. Despite resembling hummingbirds in appearance, they share a closer evolutionary relationship with toucans, puffbirds, and woodpeckers.

Depending on the species, their size is varied. The smallest among them (dusky-backed jacamar) measures approximately 7 inches (18 cm) in length, while the largest (great jacamar) can stretch up to 1 foot (30 cm). One of their notable distinguishing features is their elongated and slender beak, which can be up to three times the length of their head in certain species.

The rufous-tailed jacamar

These birds showcase stunning feathers that frequently display a metallic green hue on their heads, reddish tones on their underparts, and a distinctive patch of light color on their breast. The plumage of males and females is quite similar. In certain species, females may exhibit less vibrant colors on their head and neck.

Among the jacamars, some species exhibit remarkable variations in color, ranging from shades of purple to red or chestnut brown. An excellent example is the paradise species, which captivates with its strikingly dark bluish-black feathers, a contrasting white patch on its throat, and a gracefully elongated tail.

These birds have zygodactyl feet, characterized by two toes pointing forward and two toes facing backward, enabling them to grasp branches effectively while hunting in trees. However, there is a specific species within this group that possesses three toes, lacking the rear toe. Additionally, the birds have a long tail and relatively short wings.

2. Jacamar Species

There are about 18 jacamar species. They include the bronzy, brown, blue-necked, bluish-fronted, dusky-backed, coppery-chested, pale-headed, green-tailed, purplish, purus, paradise, three-toe, rufous-tailed, white-throated, white-eared, yellow-billed, white-chinned, and the great jacamar.

Each species has its own unique combination of colors, patterns, and physical features, making them visually distinct from one another. Take, for example, the rufous-tailed jacamars. Their upper parts shimmer in a metallic shade of coppery green, while their chins are a pale buff color. A white or buff patch adorns their throat, which may be adorned with green speckles. Their underparts range from rufous to chestnut, and their primary feathers appear blackish. Notably, they possess long central tail feathers that gradually decrease in length.

The yellow-billed jacamar
The species with yellow bill

In contrast, the coppery-chested jacamar showcases upper parts that gleam with metallic green hues. Its throat is a deep rufous shade, accompanied by dark brown eyes and a distinct eye ring in a yellowish orange hue. Its tail exhibits a captivating copper color, and its feet appear grayish in tone.

The yellow-billed species showcases upperparts that shimmer with a metallic green hue, while its head takes on a purplish brown tone. A white patch adorns its throat, complementing the rufous underparts and tail. Its distinct features include yellow feet and an eye ring.

The paradise jacamar
Paradise species

Distinguished by its metallic green upper parts, the green-tailed jacamar sets itself apart with a white or buff patch positioned on its throat. In comparison to other species, it boasts a shorter, more rounded tail. The top of its tail displays a vibrant green color, while the underside appears dusky blue.

In the case of the paradise jacamar, its entire body boasts a striking metallic bluish-black shade. This includes both the upper and lower regions. A contrasting white patch embellishes its throat, and it possesses a long, graceful tail that adds to its elegance.

3. Diet

Jacamar birds exclusively eat insects and are renowned for their affinity for large, eye-catching flying insects. They particularly favor the splendid blue morpho butterflies, flying beetles, hawk moths, and dragonflies, as well as venomous Hymenoptera like bees and wasps. Furthermore, the great Jacamar has been observed to include lizards and spiders in its diet.

To hunt prey, these birds use their captivating acrobatic hunting abilities. They frequently perch on trees lining forest streams, scanning the skies for airborne insects. Once they detect the prey, they execute elegant descents from their perches, effortlessly seizing vibrant prey in mid-flight. Additionally, they possess the ability to swiftly navigate through the skies, propelled by their whirring wings, in pursuit of their desired prey.

With an elongated bill resembling forceps, these predators can seize their prey while ensuring a safe distance to prevent harm. Upon seizing an insect, they energetically strike it against a tree branch to swiftly eliminate it. They then proceed to extract the wings and consume the prey. Fascinatingly, the birds often avoid butterflies equipped with chemical defenses.

4. Habitat

Various species of jacamars live in different areas. The green-tailed jacamar can be encountered on both sides of the Amazon. Costa Rica, Trinidad, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, and Argentina host the rufous-tailed species. The great species, on the other hand, ranges from Costa Rica to the Amazon basin. The coppery-chested species, on the other hand, boasts a more modest population size and has been sighted only at a select few locations in southern Colombia and along the slopes of the Andes in Ecuador.

These animals exhibit distinct habitat preferences, showing a strong inclination towards Neotropical rainforests, streams, savanna woodlands, or riverine forests. They are frequently encountered in forest peripheries, actively seeking out regions that provide suitable conditions for their preferred prey.

The paradise species tends to favor elevated perches, whereas the rufous-tailed demonstrates a preference for dense vegetation in low-lying areas alongside rivers. The coppery-chested occupies the highest altitudes among all species, with records of its presence reaching up to 5,100 ft (1,550 m) in the Andes.

The term “jacamar” finds its origins in the Tupi language, specifically the word “jacama-ciri,” which was employed by indigenous communities in Brazil. Throughout the years, they call them different names, including beija-flor grande (large hummingbird) and bico-de-agulha (needle-like beak).

5. They live in pairs

Most birds of this kind usually reside in pairs, preferring to roost and search for prey in the same regions. Some types even establish compact family units. The yellow-billed jacamar distinguishes itself from others by occasionally joining diverse flocks of birds. They engage in cavity-nesting behavior, constructing nests by tunneling into the ground.

Cre: on pic

In contrast to songbirds, jacamars are not renowned for their melodious singing. Nevertheless, they use a diverse range of vocalizations to communicate and convey various emotions. These vocalizations encompass squeals, whistles, trills, and brief songs. Take rufous-tailed species for example. These birds emit a piercing trill when they perceive a threat or experience agitation.

6. Reproduction

Male jacamars employ piercing vocalizations to attract prospective mates and showcase their courtship prowess during the breeding season. These avian creatures are known for their monogamous nature. They form exclusive pairs and actively partake in the construction of their nests.

They usually dig nest cavities in steep river banks. The nesting behaviors of different species exhibit slight variations. Certain species display cooperative nest-building, involving the participation of both male and female birds, whereas, in other species, only the females build nests.

Jacamars can also build tunnels in various locations, such as soil banks or the roots of fallen trees. If suitable ground tunnel sites are not available, they may utilize termite nests. The tunnels measure approximately 12 to 36 inches in length. These tunnels lead to a nest chamber located at the end, which is a horizontal and oval-shaped space.

Females lay 1 – 4 round eggs at a time. Both male and females share the responsibility of incubating the eggs during daylight hours, alternating shifts that last between one to three hours. However, when night falls, the female takes on the incubation duty alone, while the male remains nearby to safeguard the nest.

The purus jacamar

The incubation period typically ranges from 20 to 23 days. It is common for the eggs to be protected by a coating of regurgitated insect parts. After hatching, the juveniles have fluffy white down. Both parents take part in feeding the young birds, primarily with insects. The young will stay in the nest for approximately 21 to 26 days.

Certain jacamar species, such as the pale-headed, may stay with their parents even after they have fledged. This behavior can continue for several months.

7. Conservation status

The three-toed jacamar is facing a grave threat as one of the most endangered species within the family. At present, the population of three-toed jacamars is meager and scattered, confined to the arid regions of Minas Geraís and the Rio Paraíba valley in Rio de Janeiro. Similarly, the coppery-chested jacamar is also in a precarious position.

These birds face a considerable risk due to the loss of their natural habitats, which has a detrimental impact on their populations and the overall diversity of bird species. The excessive removal of understory vegetation in forest fragments in Brazil has resulted in a decrease in jacamar populations and a decline in bird diversity within the impacted region.

Reference: Encyclopedia.com


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