Bird O'clock

Discover the Fascinating World of the Broad-billed Tody: A Small Bird with a Big Personality

The Broad-billed Tody, scientifically known as Todus subulatus, is a brightly colored bird that is found in the tropical country of Jamaica. It is well-known for its distinct coloration, which consists of a bright green body, a rosy throat, and a black beak.

This small bird is known for its amusing behavior and peaceful nature, making it a favorite of bird enthusiasts worldwide.

Identification

Field Identification

The Broad-billed Tody is a small bird that measures about 12.5 cm in length, and weighs between 5-8 grams. It sports a bright green body, a rosy throat, and a black beak.

Its wings and tail are also green, with a contrasting blue patch on its wings.

Similar Species

The Broad-billed Tody is often confused with other bird species due to its similar coloration. The Jamaican Tody, for instance, is similar in color but has a yellow throat that stands out.

The Rufous-tailed Flycatcher is another species that can be mistaken for the Broad-billed Tody due to the blue patch on its wings, but its overall coloration is more muted than that of the Broad-billed Tody.

Plumages

The Broad-billed Tody undergoes two molts a year. During the breeding season, its plumage is brighter and richer in color, while in the non-breeding season, it becomes a bit subdued.

Its young ones have duller, more muted coloration than their parents.

Molts

The two molts that the Broad-billed Tody undergoes are important in maintaining the quality of feathers, which, in turn, ensures that the bird can adequately perform its daily activities such as feeding and flying. The molts also play a crucial role in the bird’s survival by providing insulation against harsh weather conditions.

In summary, the Broad-billed Tody is a magnificent tropical bird that has captivated bird enthusiasts worldwide. Its bright green body, contrasting blue patch, and peaceful behavior make it a joy to watch.

The Broad-billed Tody’s plumage changes throughout the year, which is important in maintaining the quality of feathers and ensuring survival. With the information provided above, it should be easier to identify the Broad-billed Tody in the field and appreciate its beauty.

Systematics History

The Broad-billed Tody was first classified by the famous naturalist Carl Linnaeus in 1766. Since then, the bird has undergone various changes in its scientific classification, reflecting the advances made in bird taxonomy.

Initially placed in the genus Corvus, the bird was later grouped in the genus Todus, which is where it currently resides.

Geographic Variation

The Broad-billed Tody displays little variation in its physical features throughout its range. The variations that exist are mainly based on individual and age differences.

However, its vocalizations exhibit some small variations, such as tone and pitch, among populations.

Subspecies

The Broad-billed Tody has three recognized subspecies, which are classified based on their geographic range and some slight variations in coloration and vocalizations. These subspecies are:

1.

Todus subulatus subulatus: occurs mainly in Jamaica, the type locality of the species. It is the nominate subspecies and has a bright green body, rosy throat, and a black beak.

2. Todus subulatus rufirostris: occurs in the eastern part of Hispaniola and is slightly different in coloration, with a more turquoise-green crown and reddish beak.

3. Todus subulatus sclateri: found in the western part of Hispaniola, Cuba and the Caicos Islands.

It is the darkest subspecies, with a slight bluish cast to its green body, a more pronounced red beak, and slightly different vocalizations.

Related Species

The Broad-billed Tody is part of the family Todidae, which is restricted to the Caribbean region. This family comprises of five genera and 12 species, with four of these species classified in the genus Todus, alongside the Broad-billed Tody.

The other species include the Narrow-billed Tody (Todus angustirostris), Cuban Tody (Todus multicolor), and the Jamaican Tody (Todus todus).

Historical Changes to Distribution

The habitat requirements of the Broad-billed Tody have remained relatively constant over the years. However, its distribution has undergone significant changes due to human disturbance, habitat loss, and natural disasters.

The bird was once found throughout Jamaica, but it is now restricted to several isolated mountain ranges, such as the Blue and John Crow Mountains. The species was also once found on the island of Puerto Rico, but it disappeared due to habitat alteration and hunting pressures.

However, some populations have been reintroduced successfully on the island, and there has been a slight, yet promising recovery trend. In Cuba and Hispaniola, the Broad-billed Tody has a scattered distribution and is associated with dense tropical forests.

Extensive deforestation and habitat fragmentation have led to the loss of suitable habitat, causing population declines in some areas. Overall, the Broad-billed Tody has suffered significant population declines in its range, mainly due to habitat loss and degradation.

However, some populations are stable and even thriving in areas with suitable habitat.

Conservation efforts, such as habitat restoration and protection, have been successful in some instances and may be key to the species’ survival in the long term.

In conclusion, the Broad-billed Tody has undergone significant changes in its taxonomic classification over the years. The species has little geographic variation in physical features, but some vocalizations differ slightly among populations.

Three subspecies of Broad-billed Tody are recognized based on their range and slight variations. The species has suffered significant population declines mainly due to habitat loss and degradation.

However, conservation efforts, such as habitat restoration and protection, offer hope for the bird’s long-term survival.

Habitat

Broad-billed Todies are found in a wide range of tropical forest habitats from lowlands up to about 1,000 meters elevation. They prefer mature, undisturbed forest patches with a thick understory of brushy vegetation and small trees where they are often seen perching or making aerial sallies for insects.

They also enter open habitat adjacent to forest often found at forest edges and clearings in the forest. Broad-billed Todies prefer to live in humid and shady areas, like ravines and stream beds.

They are less frequent or absent from dry habitats or where there is a long dry season. They use a variety of forest types, including rainforest and secondary growth forest, but seem to be less abundant in extensive tracts of mature forest.

They are also found in scrubby areas, plantations and gardens, as long as they have foraging opportunities and are a suitable refuge with the right structure and micro-habitat.

Movements and Migration

Broad-billed Todies are essentially sedentary birds, but some populations undertake localized movements and seasonal range shifts. These movements are generally related to resource availability and breeding activities.

On Jamaica and some small islands where they occur, the tody movement is associated with rainfall. More precisely, there is greater habitat heterogeneity associated with rainfall on these islands allowing for broader foraging opportunities.

However, the magnitude of movements is often less than 10 km and is mainly vertical, shifting from lower elevations to higher elevations, and back. In Cuba, the movements of Broad-billed Todies have been studied intensely, and it appears that some population movements do occur, yet it is unclear whether some of these movements are due to a resource change or true migration.

However, some observations from radio-tracked birds showed movement up to 15 km between forest patches south of the mountain chain, but these movements are based on food availability rather than the seasonal north-south migration. In Hispaniola, Broad-billed Todies have been observed to move from higher to lower elevations, where only temporary water sources exist, for drinking and feeding.

Hence, the species may move seasonally. Like many other tropical birds, most Broad-billed Todies do not undertake extensive long-distance migrations like migratory birds of the temperate zone.

Nevertheless, more research is needed for a better understanding of the movements of this species to optimize conservation interventions.

Conservation

The Broad-billed Tody is listed as Least Concern on the International Union for

Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. However, the species is considered near-threatened or in decline in some of the islands where it lives due to various ecological and anthropogenic factors.

Urbanization, habitat fragmentation, and deforestation, particularly for agriculture, are the primary threats to the survival of the Broad-billed Tody. Furthermore, human activity and hunting for the pet trade are additional threats to the populations of this species.

The conservation of Broad-billed Todies is most efficiently approached through long-term habitat management and protection in large blocks of habitat. As the species prefers to live in humid and shady areas, the conservation effort should be focused on preserving the integrity of these areas, particularly mountainous rainforests.

In conclusion, Broad-billed Todies are a fascinating and vibrant bird species found in tropical forests throughout many Caribbean islands. The birds are mainly sedentary, preferring to move vertically within their home range rather than migrating long distances.

They inhabit a wide range of mature forests and are often found in disturbed habitats provided food sources exist. Human activities, especially habitat loss and degradation, pose the most significant threat to the survival of the Broad-billed Tody populations, suggesting conservation efforts should be focused on forest management and protection.

Diet and Foraging

Feeding

Broad-billed Todies are insectivorous birds, and they have a unique foraging behavior. They sit in one place, unfurl their wings and fly out to catch their prey in mid-air, returning to the same perch after they have caught their insect.

A skilled Broad-billed Tody can catch up to thirty insects in a single day, mainly small bugs and beetles. They prey on a range of flying and crawling insects that are available in their preferred habitat, including leafhoppers, mantises, cicadas, and small moths.

Diet

The diet of Broad-billed Todies is varied, and they can eat most small insects they can capture in their aerial sallies. A study on foraging behavior of Broad-billed Todies in Jamaica has shown that they prey upon about 100 species of insects.

Their diet heavily depends on the abundance and seasonal variability of their insect prey in specific areas. In addition to insects, Broad-billed Todies also consume small fruits and berries like guava and wild coffee.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

As endothermic animals, Broad-billed Todies have a high metabolic rate to maintain their body temperature. They rely on a variety of mechanisms to regulate their body temperature, including panting and holding their wings out, but they do not migrate like some other bird species.

Their ability to regulate their body temperature helps them to function in the hot and humid conditions of the tropical regions in which they live.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

Vocalization

Broad-billed Todies are known for their melodious and distinctive songs. Males sing to announce their territory, attract mates, and repel competitors.

Their songs are pleasant, complex, and they deliver sharp trills that change in cadence, tone, and volume, making it a unique sound. The songs of Broad-billed Todies are harsher and more guttural than those of their related species.

The species has various vocalizations, including ticking and clicking calls, to communicate with each other. These sounds are used in different contexts, like when flying, feeding, or moving around within the forest.

In contrast, the calls are generally low-pitched and guttural, and often used as warning signals to other birds in the area.

Some of their vocalizations, including courtship songs, have been studied, and it appears that they are individualistic.

Moreover, through studio recordings and analysis of spectrograms, it can be observed that males in large territories have more extensive vocal repertoires than those in small territories. This suggests that Broad-billed Todies’ vocalizations may be evidence for their spatial awareness, and that the size of a specimen’s territory may influence the breadth of song.

In conclusion, Broad-billed Todies are fascinating tropical birds that exhibit unique feeding behaviors and diet habits. They consume an extensive range of insects and can catch their prey mid-air using their swift flying movements.

Their vocalization abilities are also remarkable, and Broad-billed Todies are known for their distinctive melodies and calls. However, human activities such as habitat destruction and fragmentation threaten the species and those of their kind.

As such, conservation efforts are crucial to ensure the Broad-billed Tody’s survival.

Behavior

Locomotion

Broad-billed Todies have a unique style of movement that differs from other arboreal bird species. They use an intriguing hopping gait to move along branches, similar to a puppet being pulled on strings.

Broad-billed Todies hop from branch to branch, supporting themselves with their wings to maintain balance. This movement style confers great agility and maneuverability to the species, allowing them to cover a wide range of habitats quickly.

Self Maintenance

Broad-billed Todies display typical grooming behavior. Individuals preen and maintain the feather structure by rubbing their beaks on the feathers repeatedly.

Daily maintenance is crucial since grooming removes feather-destroying ectoparasites like mites and lice. The frequency and duration of grooming vary depending on social status and habitat.

Agonistic Behavior

Broad-billed Todies repel competition over resources through aggressive displays, visual and vocal. They signal their physical presence and repel competitors with a harsh scolding call when perched.

They perform threatening body movements, opening the beak, puffing up the feathers, and standing upright as a defense mechanism.

Sexual Behavior

Male Broad-billed Todies establish territories and use a distinctive melodious song to attract females. During the breeding season, males can be heard singing throughout the day.

Males court females by displaying their plumage and singing, often performing comical, ostentatious displays of wings and beak. Once a male impresses a female, he will remain faithful to her throughout the breeding season.

Breeding

Broad-billed Todies breed during the wet months of the year, mainly between April and September in the Caribbean. Males construct small nests, the size of a golf ball, out of fibrous plant material and spider webs.

They will make several nests in preferred locations, allowing the female to choose her desired one. Nests are usually located in tree holes, branch junction, vines, crevices, among roots, or in empty niches.

Once the female selects the nest site, she will lay two to four white eggs. Both sexes incubate the eggs, with females doing most of the incubation.

Incubation takes around 14 days, with both parents cooperating in the rearing of the chicks. The chicks are fed by regurgitation until they are ready to leave the nest after 19 to 22 days.

They remain with their parents for a short post-fledging period, during which they learn how to capture their prey and are shown suitable foraging locations.

Demography and Populations

Broad-billed Todies have a low reproductive rate, and hence, the survival of the species is heavily influenced by adult survival rates. Studies have shown that the annual adult survival rate is around 50 percent.

Human activities, such as deforestation and habitat fragmentation, as well as climate change, pose significant threats to the populations of the Broad-billed Tody.

Habitat loss and degradation have contributed to the population decline and fragmentation of the species besides making it more difficult for the tody to find suitable nest sites.

Moreover, human activities such as logging and land use change have significantly impacted the species. Despite the threats, populations of Broad-billed Todies, as indicated by the IUCN Red List, seem stable on a global scale.

It is essential to recognize the potential changes in conservation status due to ongoing anthropogenic and environmental changes and monitor them. Further research and collaborative conservation measures involving landowners, governments, and local communities are required for the long-term conservation of the Broad-billed Tody and its habitat.

In conclusion, Broad-billed Todies are brightly colored and fascinating birds found primarily in tropical forests throughout the Caribbean. Their unique locomotion and foraging behavior combined with their melodious vocalizations make them interesting to bird enthusiasts.

Broad-billed Todies have a low reproductive rate and therefore have a survival heavily reliant on adult’s survival.

Conservation efforts focused on habitat management and restoration are crucial to maintaining the species’ well-being in this changing world.

In conclusion, the Broad-billed Tody is an intriguing and remarkable bird species, unique in its foraging, vocal, and locomotion behavior. The bird’s diet, metabolism, vocalization, and behavior were meticulously described, and their reproductive and ecological status emphasized.

The health of these birds and their populations is critical for maintaining a balanced ecosystem and preserving biodiversity. Sadly, anthropogenic activities such as habitat loss and deforestation remain the primary threats to the species, making their conservation an urgent priority.

The scientific research available on the Broad-billed Tody offers a sound basis for effective conservation measure implementation, highlighting the urgent need for collaborative initiatives to

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