Last updated

Temporal range: 34–0  Ma [1]
Cuban tody (Todus multicolor).JPG
Cuban tody (Todus multicolor)
Scientific classification OOjs UI icon edit-ltr.svg
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Coraciiformes
Family: Todidae
Vigors, 1825


Global range (in green)

The todies are a family, Todidae, of tiny Caribbean birds in the order Coraciiformes, which also includes the kingfishers, bee-eaters and rollers. The family has one living genus, Todus , and one genus known from the fossil record, Palaeotodus .


Taxonomy and systematics

The todies were originally placed in the kingfisher genus Alcedo before being placed in the genus Todus in 1760 by Mathurin Jacques Brisson. They have been linked to a large number of potential relatives since then, including nightjars, trogons, barbets, jacamars, puffbirds, kingfishers, motmots and even some passerine species such as broadbills, cotingas and flowerpeckers. The todies were placed in their own order, Todiformes, before being placed in the Coraciiformes. [2]

Genetic analysis of the extant (living) species suggests that they diversified between 6-7 million years ago. The fossil record of the family is sparse, but three species of tody have been described from fossils found in North America, Germany and France, showing that the family was once more widespread than it is today. Species from the fossil genus, Palaeotodus , are larger than living species and may have been closer in size to the tody motmot. [2] [3]

Distribution and habitat

The todies are endemic to the islands of the Caribbean. These are small, near passerine species of forests of the Greater Antilles: Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Cuba, with adjacent islands, have one species each, and Hispaniola has two: the broad-billed tody (Todus subulatus) in the lowlands (including Gonâve Island), and the narrow-billed tody (Todus angustirostris) in the highlands. [4] [5]


Todies range in weight from 5 to 7 g and in length from 10 to 11.5 cm. They have colourful plumage, and resemble kingfishers in their general shape. They have green heads, backs and wings, red throats (absent in immature Puerto Rican, broad-billed, and narrow-billed todies) [4] with a white and blue-grey stripe on each side, and yellow undertail coverts; the colour of the rest of the undersides is pale and varies according to species. The irises are pale grey. They have long, flattened bills (as do many flycatching birds) with serrated edges; the upper mandible is black and the lower is red with a little black. The legs, and especially the feet, are small. [5] Todies are highly vocal, except that the Jamaican tody seldom calls in the non-breeding season (August to November); [4] they give simple, unmusical buzzing notes, beeps, and guttural rattles, puffing their throats out with every call. [5] Their wings produce a "strange, whirring rattle", though mostly when courting or defending territory in the Puerto Rican tody. [4]

Behaviour and ecology


Todies eat small prey such as insects and lizards. Insects, from 50 families have been identified in their diet, particularly grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, bugs, butterflies, bees, wasps, and ants, form the greater part of the diet. Spiders and millipedes may also be taken, as is a small amount of fruit (2% of the diet). [2]

Their preferred habitat for foraging is in the forest understory. Todies typically sit on a low, small branch, singly or in pairs, keeping still or stepping or hopping sideways. When they see prey moving on the lower surface of a leaf, they fly a short distance (averaging 2.2 m in the broad-billed tody and 1.0 m in the Puerto Rican tody), [4] diagonally upward to glean it. They may also take prey from the ground, occasionally chasing it with a few hops. Todies are generally sedentary; the longest single flight known for the broad-billed tody is 40 m. [4] [5] Their activity is greatest in the morning when sunny weather follows rain, and in March and September. [4]

Todies are highly territorial but will join mixed-species foraging flocks composed of resident species and migrants from North America, when they pass through their territories. [2]


Like most of the Coraciiformes, todies nest in tunnels, which they dig with their beaks and feet in steep banks [5] or rotten tree trunks. [4] The tunnel is 30 cm long in the Cuban and narrow-billed todies, 30 to 60 cm in the broad-billed tody, [4] and ends in a nest chamber, generally not reused. They lay about four round white eggs in the chamber. Both parents incubate but are surprisingly inattentive to the eggs. The young are altricial and stay in the nest until they can fly. Both parents also care for the nestlings, much more attentively; they may feed each chick up to 140 times per day, the highest rate known among birds. [5]

Species list

  • Palaeotodus emryi
  • Palaeotodus escampsiensis
  • Palaeotodus itardiensis

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kingfisher</span> Family of birds

Kingfishers are a family, the Alcedinidae, of small to medium-sized, brightly colored birds in the order Coraciiformes. They have a cosmopolitan distribution, with most species found in the tropical regions of Africa, Asia, and Oceania, but also can be seen in Europe. They can be found in deep forests near calm ponds and small rivers. The family contains 116 species and is divided into three subfamilies and 19 genera. All kingfishers have large heads, long, sharp, pointed bills, short legs, and stubby tails. Most species have bright plumage with only small differences between the sexes. Most species are tropical in distribution, and a slight majority are found only in forests.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Coraciiformes</span> Order of birds

The Coraciiformes are a group of usually colourful birds including the kingfishers, the bee-eaters, the rollers, the motmots, and the todies. They generally have syndactyly, with three forward-pointing toes, though in many kingfishers one of these is missing. The members of this order are linked by their “slamming” behaviour, thrashing their prey onto surfaces to disarm or incapacitate them.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Coraciidae</span> Family of birds

Coraciidae is a family of Old World birds, which are known as rollers because of the aerial acrobatics some of these birds perform during courtship or territorial flights. Rollers resemble crows in size and build, and share the colourful appearance of kingfishers and bee-eaters, blues and pinkish or cinnamon browns predominating. The two inner front toes are connected, but not the outer one.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Motmot</span> Family of birds

The motmots or Momotidae are a family of birds in the order coraciiformes, which also includes the kingfishers, bee-eaters and rollers. All extant motmots are restricted to woodland or forests in the Neotropics, and the largest are in Central America. They have a colourful plumage and a relatively heavy bill. All except the tody motmot have relatively long tails that in some species have a distinctive racket-like tip.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Puerto Rican tody</span> Species of bird

The Puerto Rican tody is a bird endemic to Puerto Rico. It is locally known in Spanish as "San Pedrito" and "medio peso".

<i>Todus</i> Genus of birds

Todus is a genus of birds in the family Todidae, the todies, found in the Caribbean. It is the only extant genus within the family Todidae. The five species are small, near passerine birds of the forests of the Greater Antilles: Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Cuba, with adjacent islands, have one species each, and Hispaniola has two, the broad-billed tody in the lowlands and the narrow-billed tody in the highlands.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cuban tody</span> Species of bird

The Cuban tody is a bird species in the family Todidae that is restricted to Cuba and the adjacent islands.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jamaican tody</span> Species of bird

The Jamaican tody is a species of bird in the genus Todus endemic to Jamaica. Local names for the Jamaican tody include rasta bird, robin and robin redbreast.

<i>Momotus</i> Genus of birds

Momotus is a small genus of the motmots, a family of near passerine birds found in forest and woodland of the Neotropics. They have a colourful plumage, which is green on the back becoming blue on the flight feathers and the long tails. The barbs near the ends of the two longest central tail feathers fall off, leaving a length of bare shaft so that tails appear racket-shaped.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Broad-billed tody</span> Species of bird endemic to Hispaniola

The broad-billed tody is a species of bird in the family Todidae, and one of two Todus species found on Hispaniola, along with the narrow-billed tody. They are small insectivorous birds, characterized by their bright green feathers, pink flanks and red throats.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Broad-billed motmot</span> Species of bird

The broad-billed motmot is a fairly common Central and South American bird of the Momotidae family. They are nonmigratory, sedentary birds that are most frequently seen in singles or pairs. There exist six subspecies of the broad-billed motmot.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tody motmot</span> Species of bird

The tody motmot is a species of near-passerine bird in the motmot family Momotidae. It is the only species placed in the genus Hylomanes. It is found in Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Forest kingfisher</span> Species of bird

The forest kingfisher, also known as Macleay's or the blue kingfisher, is a species of kingfisher in the subfamily Halcyoninae, also known as tree kingfishers. It is a predominantly blue and white bird. It is found in Indonesia, New Guinea and coastal eastern and Northern Australia. Like many other kingfishers, it hunts invertebrates, small frogs, and lizards.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Narrow-billed tody</span> Species of bird endemic to Hispaniola

The narrow-billed tody is a species of bird in the family Todidae. It is one of two Todus species endemic to Hispaniola, a Caribbean island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

<i>Septencoracias</i> Extinct genus of birds

Septencoracias is an extinct genus of bird related to modern rollers and other Coraciiformes such as kingfishers, bee-eaters, motmots, and todies. It contains one species, Septencoracias morsensis. It was found in the Fur Formation of Denmark, dating back to the Ypresian of the Lower Eocene Epoch, about 54 million years ago. Septencoracias is one of the earliest known members of Coraciiformes, lending insight into the earliest radiation of this group.

Palaeotodus is an extinct genus of todies in the family Todidae. The genus has at least three species known from fossils found in west-central Europe and western North America.

<i>Eocoracias</i> Extinct genus of birds

Eocoracias is an extinct genus of bird related to modern rollers and other Coraciiformes such as kingfishers, bee-eaters, motmots, and todies. It contains one species, Eocoracias brachyptera, and it lived approximately 47 million years ago based on dating of the fossil site. It is known for a specimen having preserved non-iridescent structural coloration on its feathers, previously unknown in fossil birds. Fossils have been found at the Messel Pit in Germany.


  1. "Todidae". Retrieved 2022-02-23.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Kepler, A. K. (2001). "Family Todidae (Todies)". In del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 6, Mousebirds to Hornbills . Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN   84-87334-30-X.
  3. Mayr, Gerald; Knopf, Charles W. (2007). "A Tody (Alcediniformes: Todidae) from the Early Oligocene of Germany". The Auk. 124 (4): 1294. doi: 10.1642/0004-8038(2007)124[1294:ATATFT]2.0.CO;2 .
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Raffaele, Herbert; Wiley, James; Garrido, Orlando H.; Keith, Allan; Raffaele, Janis I. (1998). A Guide to the Birds of the West Indies. Princeton University Press. pp. 341–343. ISBN   0-691-08736-9 . Retrieved 2008-07-02.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Fry, C. Hilary (2003). "Todies". In Perrins, Christopher (ed.). Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds . Firefly Books. pp.  373. ISBN   1-55297-777-3.