Bird Families

Todus subbulatus


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Broad-billed Todi

The broad-billed Todi is a species of bird of the Todia family that lives on the island of Haiti and the neighboring island of Gonave. Distributed everywhere, inhabits open bushes and semi-deserts, shady coffee plantations and sometimes mangrove forests. It hunts insects, while waiting for prey, it prefers to sit with its beak raised.

The broad-billed Todi is the largest species of the family, its total length is 11 - 12 cm, and its weight is 7 - 10.2 grams. Like all todies, it stands out for its bright green plumage in the upper part, a grayish breast and belly, a red throat and a long beak. A characteristic feature of the species are pinkish-red sides and a bright yellow undertail. Juveniles are less brightly colored.

The name was given to the species by the British zoologist George Robert Gray in 1847. In the 19th century, scientists believed that the wide-billed and narrow-billed Todi belonged to the same species, and the differences were due to sexual dimorphism. Later, it was believed that the broad-billed, narrow-billed and Cuban species form a group. Recent studies have shown that the broad-billed species is closer to the Puerto Rican, and together with the Jamaican species, they form a sublayer.

1. General characteristics

All todies are very small, rounded birds with a short tail and a long, flattened beak. The plumage is bright green in the upper part of the body and whitish in the lower part, the throat is red. At the same time, the plumage of the wide-billed Todi varies from the color of green grass to a much brighter shade, the throat spot of a soft red color is composed of feathers with a thin silvery-white border, the sides are mostly soft pink. The chest and belly are painted in grayish-white colors, with yellow-gray, sulfur-yellow, or pink, like side feathers, shadows, bottom and undertail are bright yellow. This species has pronounced yellow-green eyebrows and a bridle, the area between the eye and beak, several gray feathers under the ear, the lower part of the beak is completely red, and the upper part is black, the iris of the eye is dark gray. Feet are brown or dark brown.

The broad-billed Todi is the largest of all the Todi. Its total length is 11 - 12 cm, weight is 7 - 10.2 grams. American ornithologist Robert Ridgway, in the Smithsonian's bulletin of 1914, cited the following characteristics, which are referenced by the Neotropical Birds Online encyclopedia: wing length - 47.5 - 53 mm, tail length - 33 - 38 mm, beak length 18 - 22 mm, beak width - 5.5 - 6 mm, metatarsus - 13 - 14.5 mm, middle toe length - 8.5 - 10 mm.

This type of Todi has the longest average flight distance - 2.2 meters, and has the longest wing - 50.3 mm. He also owns the maximum recorded flight distance - 40 meters. This species also has the largest beak. The upper part of the beak is serrated for breaking hard insects, which is a characteristic feature of all todis. Like other Raksha-like, it has partially spliced ​​fore toes, which they use to dig holes.

The main song of the wide-billed Todi is the monotonous indignant whistle "terp-terp-terp".This song on one note is very different from the sounds of the narrow-billed Todi, which prefers the two-syllable "chip-chi". In addition, the song lacks the nasal sound that is characteristic of most Todi, except also Cuban. During aggression, you can hear loud chirping, and presumably, during the mating season, various sharp guttural sounds. Like all Todi, this species can fly silently, but to protect the territory, it emits a characteristic sound with its wings, when air quickly passes through the primary flight feathers. It was previously thought that this sound was due to the fact that the feathers were slightly weakened, but upon close examination it turned out that these feathers did not have an altered stiffness or width. Quite loud sound, however, is difficult to record and strongly depends on weather conditions: on sunny days it is heard more strongly than on cloudy or rainy days. According to observations in 1931, Todi make this sound when they fly up from the hole and then rush down.

2. Dissemination

The broad-billed Todi is found on the island of Haiti, mainly in the Dominican Republic, and on the island of Gonave, but has not been found on the islands of Saona and Tortu. According to 1931 data, Todi from Gonave Island are slightly larger than birds from the main island, however, differences in plumage brightness were not confirmed. Modern research shows that, on the contrary, the Todi from Gonav Island are smaller in size. The inhabitants of the Dominican Republic call this species, like the narrow-billed Todi, barrancoli from the Spanish word in Spanish. barranco is a ravine, and Haitians are colibri, due to the similarity with these birds.

Of the similar birds, only the narrow-billed Todi also lives in Haiti, but it has a whiter breast with less yellow and pink, a darker beak tip and a white iris compared to the wide-billed one. The beak of the broad-billed Todi, in comparison with the narrow-billed Todi, is approximately twice as wide. Birds also differ in singing and habits during hunting, in particular, wide-billed Todi are less active.

Distributed everywhere, prefers arid and semi-arid regions. Inhabits open bushes and semi-deserts, coffee plantations. The forests inhabited by the broad-billed Todi are dominated by legumes, small-leaved shrubs of Guaiacum officinale and Bursera simaruba, Cephalocereus and Agave cacti. On the Samana Peninsula, it is found in mangrove forests. Selects places with shallow vegetation ravines, convenient for digging holes and nesting. Usually prefers to settle at an altitude below 1700 meters above sea level. In particular, it was found on the northern slope of the Sel mountain range. In higher mountains it gives way to a narrow-billed Todi.

Broad-billed Todi can join in pairs to flocks of small birds, more often insectivores, mainly during the migration of the latter through their territory, presumably to improve the possibilities for food. Todi does not join flocks on the coffee plantation grounds. In the Sierra de Baoruco and Cordillera Central, the broad-billed and narrow-billed Todi cohabit in a vertical range of at least 1200 m; in the case of mixing, both species change their behavior.

Despite the decrease in the population of broad-billed Todi, their range is wide enough, and the population is high enough to classify them as the species under the least threat.

3. Nutrition

Like all Todi, the broad-billed insect feeds, however, it is the least active of all species. It prefers to sit on open branches with an average diameter of 11 mm, located in the shade, with its tail down and its beak raised up 45 degrees. Todi watches the prey with his eyes, and then rushes at it and catches it with a loud click with his beak. The broad-billed species practices longer flights and captures larger prey than the narrow-billed species, in particular grasshoppers, crickets, Orthoptera locusts and Lepidoptera butterflies, which are too large for the narrow-billed species. Scientists speculate that differences in diet may have caused differences in beak size.

On shady coffee plantations, wide-billed Todi prefer to catch insects from deciduous trees that provide shade, rather than from the coffee itself. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the height of the latter rarely exceeds 3-4 meters. In 94% of cases, insects are picked up from the leaves, most often in 69.3% of cases, this species hunts on the branches and leaves of the inga. Broad-billed Todi almost equally often use attacks in the horizontal direction 48.9% or upward 42.2%, while narrow-billed Todi prefer attacks in the horizontal direction. The average distance to prey is 0.86 meters, while the narrow-billed one is 0.49 meters.

Broad-billed Todi are more adapted than others to feed in arid shrubs, where they prefer branches at an average height of 2.3 meters. In humid forests, this species moves higher, to branches at a height of 5.3 meters. The average feeding height is 3.1 meters. In mixed flocks with narrow-billed Todi, this species feeds above the latter and the average feeding height is already 5.2 meters, using tall trees for hunting instead of underbrush, which leads to a change in hunting tactics. In mixed flocks with other species, both todies tend to use longer sally-hovers. In this case, the narrow-billed Todi also prefers to climb higher for hunting. In addition, in mixed flocks, the broad-billed Todi becomes much more active.

4. Reproduction

Broad-billed Todi are monogamous for one season, that is, having chosen a pair at the beginning of the season, they no longer change it. This species possesses a large number of pink side feathers and uses them in the characteristic flank display courtship tactic, in which the bird fluffs up its pink side feathers. During flight, they almost meet behind the back, and the wings become barely noticeable.

Birds lay eggs in burrows with an average depth of 30 cm, sometimes it can reach 60 cm, with an entrance hole 4 cm high and 3.7 cm wide, which both partners dig from September in small ravines up to 1.5 meters high. They protect burrows from any visitors, including humans and mongoose. In the nesting chamber, right on the bare ground, the Todi lay their eggs. Usually there is only one clutch, although occasionally two clutches are possible per season. According to the Handbook of the Birds of the World HBW, clutch contains 3 - 4 shiny white eggs and occurs in March - June. Neotropical Birds Online states that clutching occurs in April - July, and the number of eggs ranges from one to four, with reddish spots. The eggs of the Todi are the smallest among the Raksha-like, the size of the eggs of the wide-billed Todi is 15.9 - 18 mm in length and 13.3 - 15 mm in width. HBW lists an average size of 16.9 x 14.3 mm, noting that they are the largest among the Todi. Both partners incubate eggs, but the female spends more time in the nest. The incubation period is two to three weeks, the same number of young chicks remain in the nest, after which they begin to live separately.

5. Taxonomy and taxonomy

The scientific name is Todus subulatus, the species was so named by the British zoologist George Robert Gray in 1847, but did not receive a scientific description, and in the subsequent work of the same zoologist in 1848 it was not taken into account at all. The English ornithologist Richard Boudler Sharp in 1872 suggested that the description of the entire genus, given in 1760 by the French zoologist Maturin-Jacques Brisson, was made not from the Jamaican, but from the wide-billed species. Todier de St Domingue, 1783, Louis Jean Pierre Viejo Todier vert, 1819, Pierre Joseph Bonnaterre Todus viridis, 1823. Under Todus viridis different researchers differently time understood Puerto Rican, Jamaican and Dominican broad-billed species.

In 1847, the French ornithologist Frederic de La Freinet used the Latin name Todus dominicenses, which was widely used later, to describe the species. In 1851, he described the narrow-billed Todi: the description was based on a specimen provided by the French entomologist Augustus Salle, who in 1857 suggested that the narrow-billed and wide-billed Todi were the same species, and the differences were due to sexual dimorphism. Several other birdwatchers, including Sharpe, have shared the same view.

Until recently, it was believed that the broad-billed and narrow-billed Todi descended from the same ancestor and together with the Cuban species form a group.Scientists believed that the migration of the ancient Todi was carried out from the Yucatan Peninsula to Cuba, and then to Haiti, where the Cuban Todi, judging by the intensity of pink, blue and green color in plumage, vocalization and behavior, evolved into a wide-billed species. Due to the strong differences between the wide-billed and narrow-billed species, scientists find it difficult to say whether they developed separately when the island was divided into two parts, or there were several migrations.

Phylogenetic studies of mitochondrial DNA have shown that the broad-billed Todi descended from the same ancestor as the Puerto Rican, while the narrow-billed Todi is closer to the Cuban. The separation took place 3 to 2 million years ago. It is now generally accepted that the broad-billed, Jamaican and Puerto Rican species form a sublayer.