Turquoise-Browed Motmot

Turquoise-Browed Motmot

Torogoz, guardabarranco, pájaro reloj, momoto cejiceleste, far-less flattering pájaro bobo

Eumomota superciliosa
Population size
50-500 thou
Life Span
12-20 yrs
65 g
34 cm
12 cm

The Turquoise-browed motmot is a colorful, medium-sized bird of the motmot family. It has a mostly grey-blue body with a rufous back and belly. There is a bright blue strip above the eye and a blue-bordered black patch on the throat. The flight feathers and upper side of the tail are blue. The tips of the tail feathers are shaped like rackets and the bare feather shafts are longer than in other motmots. Although it is often said that motmots pluck the barbs off their tail to create the racketed shape, this is not true; the barbs are weakly attached and fall off due to abrasion with substrates and with routine preening.


Turquoise-browed motmots are found in Central America from south-east Mexico (mostly the Yucatán Peninsula), to Costa Rica. These birds live in fairly open habitats such as forest edge, gallery forest and scrubland.

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Turquoise-browed motmots are non-migratory birds that are active during the day. They are more conspicuous than other motmots, often perching in the open on wires and fences. From these perches, they scan for prey, such as insects and small reptiles. Turquoise-browed motmots are social birds; they live in pairs or in small groups but nest in big colonies. They are generally quiet but during the breeding season, these birds become very vocal. Their common call is nasal, croaking, and far-carrying.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Turquoise-browed motmots are carnivores (insectivores). They feed on insects such as butterflies, bees, dragonflies, beetles, and spiders, as well as small lizards and snakes. Sometimes these birds may also eat some fruit.

Mating Habits

begins in March
3 weeks
1 month
3-6 eggs

Turquoise-browed motmots are monogamous and form pair bonds that may last for several years. Their mating season usually begins in March. These birds nest in burrows which they excavate in an earth bank or sometimes in a quarry or fresh-water well. Breeding pairs nest close together and both the male and female take part in excavating their burrow. The burrow itself is a long tunnel that widens into a chamber with the nest. The female lays 3 to 6 white eggs and can produce two broods per season. The incubation period is around 3 weeks shared by both parents. The chicks are altricial; they are born blind with pink skin and completely helpless. The chicks remain in the burrow until they fledge and learn how to fly which usually occurs at the age of 1 month.


Population threats

Turquoise-browed motmots are common and not considered threatened. However, declines in their populations are possible due to ongoing habitat destruction and fragmentation.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total Turquoise-browed motmot population size is approximately 50,000-499,999 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.

Ecological niche

Turquoise-browed motmots play an important role in their ecosystem. These birds control populations of insects and also help to disperse seeds of fruits. They also provide nesting sites for some burrow-living bird species such rough-winged swallows which often use motmots' tunnels for laying eggs.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The Turquoise-browed motmot is a well-known bird in its range and has been chosen as the national bird of both El Salvador and Nicaragua. It has acquired a number of local names including guardabarranco ("ravine-guard") in Nicaragua, Torogoz in El Salvador (based on its call) and pájaro reloj ("clock bird") in the Yucatán, based on its habit of wagging its tail like a pendulum. In Costa Rica, this bird is known as momoto cejiceleste or the far-less flattering pájaro bobo ("foolish bird"), owing to its tendency to allow humans to come very near it without flying away.
  • The name of this tropical bird originates from the turquoise color of its brow.
  • Before eating prey, Turquoise-browed motmots beat it against the perch and only then swallow it whole.
  • Turquoise-browed motmots have an extraordinary racketed tail that functions differently for the sexes. Males apparently use their tail to attract females, as males with longer tails have greater pairing success and reproductive success. The tail is also used by both sexes in a wag-display when it is moved back-and-forth in a pendulous fashion. Motmots perform the wag-display in the presence of a predator, showing it that it has been seen and that pursuit will not result in capture.
  • Turquoise-browed motmots are hardworking birds. They excavate very long burrows for nesting and the longest one has been recorded at 244 cm!


1. Turquoise-Browed Motmot on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turquoise-browed_motmot
2. Turquoise-Browed Motmot on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22682992/92972071

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