Todidae – Todies

Cuban Tody Todus multicolor ©Adam Riley Website

Coraciiformes; Todidae

The Tody family, Todidae, is endemic to the Greater Antilles and is thought to have evolved 6-7 million years ago. Five modern tody species are endemic on 4 islands: Puerto Rico (Puerto Rican Tody, Todus mexicanus); Jamaica (Jamaican Tody, T. todus); Cuba (Cuban Tody, T. multicolor); and Hispaniola (Narrow-billed Tody, T. angustirostris, and Broad-billed Tody, T. subulatus).

They are all tiny, brightly coloured forest birds with a short tail, emerald green upper parts, and a bright red throat and bill. The undersides are washed with light shades of different colours in the five species: yellow, green, red or blue.

The habits of the Puerto Rican Tody are fairly typical: This species sits quietly, with its bill tilted up, as it rapidly scans the forest under-story for insect prey. This posture accounts for its local name: San Pedrito (Little Saint Peter). It sits so still that it is often hard to see despite its bright colours. Suddenly it will fly up to grab an insect off the underside of a leaf or branch, and then land on a new perch. Less commonly it catches flying insects. The Puerto Rican Tody eats insects, including katydids, grasshoppers, crickets, earwigs, dragonflies, flies (Diptera); and beetles (Coleoptera); as well as spiders, and occasional small lizards and fruit. When excited, the Tody bobs its body up and down.

Average territory size in lowland forest is 0.7 hectares (1.8 acres); compared to two hectares per pair at higher elevations where insect prey is less abundant.

The breeding behaviour of the Tody is unusual among Puerto Rico birds. Every year, each pair digs a narrow, 25-35 cm. long burrow with a right angle, in an earth bank over an eight-week period, typically between February and May. The female lays 2-4 white eggs. Each egg is equivalent to one quarter of the body weight of the female: more than twice as heavy, proportionately, as in most other bird species. The Tody can lower its body temperature by up to 11 degrees Centigrade to conserve heat during cold weather, especially when breeding. Both sexes incubate the eggs over a period of about 21 days. Sometimes todies other than the parents assist in incubation and raising the young.

Status And Conservation: Although common forest species on their respective islands, they suffer from nest predation by the introduced mongoose. In historical times, humans captured them for food.

The above account is excerpted from the book and CD-ROM, Puerto Rico’s Birds in Photographs, by Mark W. Oberle Editorial Humanitas Press, San Juan, PR. 2000, 2nd ed, (ISBN 0965010414).
It has 1300 photos, 170+ audio clips, and natural history accounts (English text in the book; complete Spanish and English text plus web links on the CD-ROM).

References

Kepler, A.K. 1977. Comparative study of the Todies (Todidae): with emphasis on the Puerto Rican Tody (Todus mexicanus). Nuttall Ornithology Club #16. Cambridge, MA. 190pp.
Kepler, A.K. 2001. Order Coraciiformes, Family Todidae (Todies) in del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott, and J. Sargatal, eds. Handbook of Birds of the World, Vol. 6. Mousebirds to hornbills. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
Oberle, M. W. 2000. Puerto Rico’s Birds in Photographs, Editorial Humanitas Press, San Juan, PR. (ISBN 0965010414). http://www.mindspring.com/~oberle/PRbirds.htm
Raffaele, H.A., J.W. Wiley, O.H. Garrido, A.R. Keith, and J.I. Raffaele. 1998. Guide to the birds of the West Indies. Princeton.

Species List

According to the IOC the family Todidae consists of just five species; they are:

Cuban Tody Todus multicolor
Broad-billed Tody Todus subulatus
Narrow-billed Tody Todus angustirostris
Jamaican Tody Todus todus
Puerto Rican Tody Todus mexicanus

Species Links
  • Broad-billed Tody Todus subulatus

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Broad-billed Tody Todus subulatus

    HBW Species Account
    Todus subulatus G. R. Gray, 1847, no locality. A multi-gene study revealed that present species, T. todus and T. mexicanus form a subclade within the family. In the past was thought to include T. angustirostris (see above). Monotypic.
  • Broad-billed Tody Todus subulatus

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Broad-billed Tody Todus subulatus

    Species Account
    The broad-billed tody (Todus subulatus) is one of the two species of tody native to the island of Hispaniola. It can be identified by its small size, stubby beak, ruby-red throat, and green back.
  • Broad-billed Tody Todus subulatus

    Cornell Species Account
    The Broad-billed Tody (Todus subulatus) is a typical tody: a small, short-tailed, chunky bird with bright colors and a long, flattened bill. It is found on Hispaniola, which is the only island on which more than a single species of tody occurs: the Narrow-billed Tody (Todus angustirostris) tends to occur at higher elevations on the island, above 700 m, while the lowlands of Hispaniola are occupied by the Broad-billed Tody.
  • Cuban Tody Todus multicolor

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Cuban Tody Todus multicolor

    HBW Species Account
  • Cuban Tody Todus multicolor

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Cuban Tody Todus multicolor

    Species Account
    The Cuban tody (Todus multicolor) is a bird species in the family Todidae that is restricted to Cuba and adjacent islands.
  • Cuban Tody Todus multicolor

    Cornell Species Account
    A small, colorful bird with a distinctly big-headed appearance. The most brightly colored member of the genus, the Cuban Tody has bright green upperparts with gleaming yellowish-green supercilia, yellow lores, red throat, pinkish flanks, whitish belly, and bright yellow crissum.
  • Jamaican Tody Todus todus

    Cornell Species Account
    The Jamaican Tody is a tiny, colorful bird of wooded areas throughout the island of Jamaica. Though there are five species of Todies in the Caribbean, this is the only species present on Jamaica, and is therefore unmistakable within its range.
  • Jamaican Tody Todus todus

    Species Account
    Found only in Jamaica, the Jamaican tody (Todus todus) is a small and colourful bird, predominantly green above, with a red throat and yellow underparts, with some pink on the sides. It has a large head and a long, flat bill. It perches on small branches, with its bills unturned and, like its Cuban relative (the Cuban tody), takes insects, larvae, and fruit. The Jamaican tody nests in burrows, which it excavates in muddy banks or rotted wood.
  • Jamaican Tody Todus todus

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Jamaican Tody Todus todus

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Alcedo Todus Linnaeus, 1758, Jamaica. A multi-gene study revealed that present species, T. subulatus and T. mexicanus form a subclade within the family. Birds trapped at 1200 m significantly heavier and longer-winged than those at 650 m, perhaps subspecifically distinct; study required. Monotypic.
  • Jamaican Tody Todus todus

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Narrow-billed Tody Todus angustirostris

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Narrow-billed Tody Todus angustirostris

    HBW Species Account
  • Narrow-billed Tody Todus angustirostris

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Narrow-billed Tody Todus angustirostris

    Species Account
    The narrow-billed tody (Todus angustirostris) is a species of bird in the Todidae family. It is found in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist montane forests and heavily degraded former forest.
  • Narrow-billed Tody Todus angustirostris

    Cornell Species Account
    The Narrow-billed Tody (Todus angustirostris) is a typical tody: a small, short-tailed, chunky bird with bright colors and a long, flattened bill. It is found on Hispaniola, which is the only island on which more than a single species of tody occurs: the Narrow-billed Tody tends to occur at higher elevations on the island, above 700 m, while the lowlands of Hispaniola are occupied by the Broad-billed Tody (Todus subulatus).
  • Puerto Rican Tody Todus mexicanus

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Puerto Rican Tody Todus mexicanus

    HBW Species Account
  • Puerto Rican Tody Todus mexicanus

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Puerto Rican Tody Todus mexicanus

    Species Account
    The Puerto Rican tody (Todus mexicanus) is a bird native to the island of Puerto Rico. Despite its scientific name, the Puerto Rican tody is endemic to the island and is locally known as "San Pedrito" ("Little Saint Peter").
  • Puerto Rican Tody Todus mexicanus

    Cornell Species Account
    One of five species in the Todidae, Puerto Rican Tody, is found in a wide range of wooded habitats across the island of the same name, and occurs from the coastal lowlands well into the mountains.
Contributors
  • Mark Oberle

    | oberle@mindspring.com

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 5

Useful Reading
  • Comparative Study of Todies (Todidae)

    | (With Emphasis on the Puerto Rican Tody, Todus mexicanus) | by Angela Kay Kepler | Nuttall Ornithological Club | 1977 | Hardback | 190 pages, 67 b/w photos and b/w illustrations, 7 b/w maps, 37 tables | #14024 | ISBN: Buy this book from NHBS.com
Useful Information
  • Comparative study of the Todies (Todidae): with emphasis on the Puerto Rican Tody Todus mexicanus

    Kepler, A.K. 1977. Nuttall Ornithology Club #16. Cambridge, MA. 190pp.
Photographers & Artists
  • Jamaican Tody Todus todus

    Gallery
    Good photograph…

Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND