Island specialization

Most birds would not get the “cute” label the way many mammal species do, but the Tody is a definite contender for the award among avian species.

With their diminutive size and (relatively) large head, Todies rank high on my cute list.

With their diminutive size and (relatively) large head, Todies rank high on my cute list.

There are only 5 species of Todies, all found only on Caribbean islands.  However, fossils of a Tody ancestor have been found in Europe, so it is likely that this group was once more widely distributed and is now relegated to island habitats where there is less competition.  Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Jamaica all have their own (endemic) Tody species, each looking slightly different.

Although their green plumage helps them blend into the forest background somewhat, their buzzy song (more of a short beep really) helps us locate them.

Although their green plumage helps them blend into the forest background somewhat, their buzzy song (more of a short beep really) helps us locate them.

Todies are most closely related to Kingfishers, and in fact, resemble them somewhat in body shape.  Like Kingfishers, they sit and wait, hunting from a perch, until they spot an insect or spider nearby, then dart out to grab it.

Isolation on islands allows genetic variation to take different directions, resulting in slight plumage variation in the five different species.  The Cuban Tody is a fancier dresser than the Puerto Rican species.

The scientific name, Todus multicolor, describes this flashy Cuban Tody well, with its pink, blue, and red feathers ontrasting with the bright green.

The scientific name, Todus multicolor, describes this flashy Cuban Tody well, with its pink, blue, and red feathers contrasting with the bright green.

Todies are found all over the island here, and I’m already looking forward to our next encounter with them.

13 thoughts on “Island specialization

  1. Love the Tody. I understood that the Cuban Tody with pink side feathers is the female, unlike the usual more flashy male who gets all the good colors. I will try and get that confirmed. I also read that a fossil of a Tody was found in Wisconsin.

    • Hi Teri,
      I think male and female Cuban Tody have the pretty much the same plumage, but the male shows off the blue facial feathers better. Interesting about the fossil in Wisconsin.

  2. Pingback: Islands of(f) islands | Back Yard Biology

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