The so-called “Silly bird” (Pájaro Bobo) belongs to the Momotidae bird family. In Costa Rica, this family has six species, all with beautiful and colorful plumage. However, the most widely distributed species in the country and most common to observe in its range of distribution is the common “Momoto” or “Guardabarranco”.
This species is found in the Central Valley and intermediate elevations, in the South, Central, and North Pacific; in the drier part of the northwest of the country it is limited to gallery forests. They have a characteristic racket-shaped tail, which moves from side to side as if they wanted to hypnotize us, so they have earned the nickname of “tic-toc” bird in other countries. However, it differs from the rest of the species, by presenting an intense blue ring that separates its black crown with the sides of the head.
Its habitat includes humid forests, seasonal forests, shaded secondary forests, and glades with scattered trees, plantations (such as coffee plantations) and shaded gardens. It can be seen more commonly alone, but also in pairs.
These birds feed on fruits according to the season, but on soil invertebrates such as insects mainly ants, centipedes, earthworms and spiders; Also, they can prey on small reptiles, and occasionally on smaller birds and their nests. There have been peculiar reports of the species preying on adult hummingbirds, mouses, rats, and even bats.
Their nesting is something particular, they do not make a nest as we normally are used to seeing, but rather, it digs burrows in banks or earth walls to lay its egg in a terminal chamber, the eggs, which are generally three to four, are laid between March and May. These chambers or cavities can be more than one meter up to four meters long and are not always straight. Due to this characteristic, in some countries it is known as canyoning or canyoning, this last name is very used in the neighboring country of Nicaragua, where it is that country’s National Bird.
There are certain cultural beliefs related to this bird family; to smell this bird is known as “coicote”. Its song in April is the announcement to sow corn, rice, and beans. For others, the song is the announcement of natural disasters. It is also said that this “Momoto” is the “healer” for other birds when they are sick.
After all this information, you will continue to wonder, but why is it called the “silly bird” (Pájaro Bobo)? Well, its name is just a reference to the vocalizations it emits: “bo-bo, bo-bo”.
So pay attention the next time you are in your garden or the park because you might have the opportunity to contemplate or listen to this beautiful bird.