Bird of the Week

Rufous-tailed Jacamar (Galbula ruficauda)


The Galbulide family includes 18 species of Jacammars, all of which are found in Tropical regions of America. Most of the species have stunning glittering metallic colors on their plumages, similar to many hummingbirds which have iridescence.
One of the main features of these kinds of birds are their long, pointed, and very slender bills which are well designed to catch different fliers insects of the tropical forest. Probably due to the mentioned characteristics some people could confuse them with hummingbirds, however, they belong to the Trochilidae family.


It measures about 9 inches long and weighs approximately 27g. The Rufous-tailed Jacamar has sexual dimorphism, so it meaans there are some differences between the male and the female. For instance, both have short legs, very long and pointed beaks, a broad green band on the chest, and a rufous color belly and undercoverts from the tail. One of the main differences between the male and female on this species is the color of the throat, in the case of the male is white, in females it is buffy and finally the posterior underparts are paler in the females.



This bird has a wide distribution, it can be found from the south of Mexico to western of Ecuador and northeast of Argentina.
In Costa Rica, it inhabits the Pacific and Atlantic slopes, from sea level to 4000 feet.



It occurs in humid lowlands, on both slopes of the country. It frequents the border of the second-growth forest, mainly in the shady areas of the understory level. Also, it likes to be along the streams and river borders, usually, it perches in horizontal vines or branches from where it is used to patrol the surroundings in order to sight several insects, and then it will fly to catch them.

Feeding habits.

This wonderful bird subsists largely, if not wholly, on flying insects. The adaptation of a slender and long beak, helps it to catch them as if these were tweezers. When it is active foraging, it starts turning its head back, raising the tip of its bill. When they do this, it is in order to get a sharp watch for the prey, and then when they are ready to fly from the perch, you will see some shiny darts moving in the air, doing amazing acrobatics.
In addition, the Jacamar normally prefers some vine of branches that are located over a pathway or a narrow stream where it has plenty of space to perform its aerial skillful movements.
It is a specialist in catching butterflies, probably their favorite meal because also this bird is often found near the rotten fruits of different kinds of trees the fruits in these conditions attract these insects because they feed on the sugar of the fleshy parts. However, its diet includes more invertebrates such as dance flies, dragonflies, flies, bees, beetles, and sometimes spiders. If the Jacamar catches resistant prey, it will strike it against the branch.



This species begins the nesting season around the middle of February in the dry season. The sites they prefer to make their nest are steep surfaces, like earthen walls that are into the woods, normally along the creeks, however, they also can use termite nests. Therefore, the Jacamar burrows in these places to make holes that could measure from 11 to 16 inches in length, they may use the same burrow for the next few years. Females lay from 2 to 4 eggs which are completely white and nearly round.
On the other hand, the female is in charge of the nest at night, but during the day, she alternates with her mate to sit on the eggs, the incubation period could last from 20 to 26 days.


This bird species has a wide range of distribution, thanks to that the Rufous-tailed Jacamar is considered as least concern species by the IUCN due to it not approaching the threshold that defines the population of the species as vulnerable.
In Costa Rica, the Rufous-tailed Jacamar inhabits several protected areas, for instance in the central Pacific side this is very common in Carara National Park, as well as in the south Pacific in some places like Peninsula de Osa. Also, the Atlantic slope can be found at Braulio Carrillo National Park, Tortuguero National Park, and Cahuita National Park.