El Pájaro Bobo – Our motmot in San Antonio

Costa Rica has six species of motmots, but the only species in our area is the Blue-crowned motmot (Momotus momota). The locals call it el pájaro bobo, the silly bird, because it allows people to approach it closely, seemingly without any fear. Not that it’s easy to spot this bird. It likes shady places and spends a lot of time sitting motionless in one place, so it doesn’t call attention to itself.  Once seen, however, never forgotten!  It’s a fairly large bird and the combination of the beautiful plumage and the long tail with what looks like missing feathers is really striking. Here in San Antonio I rarely can find it, though it does nest in a bank next to the house of Nerón, the woodcutter. Yesterday’s sighting was at don Martín’s forest patch above Quebrada La Loca, the nearest location to my house so far. Don Martín had never seen it there before and it was a real treat for both of us.  Here’s a nice photo of this middle-elevation species taken by friend Karel Straatman; note the bright blue frame around the eye patch.

A pair of Blue-crowned motmots

A pair of Blue-crowned motmots


The Turquoise-browed motmot (Eumomota superciliosa) is found in Guanacaste in the north west and it is the national bird of Nicaragua. In contrast to our local motmot, this species is much easier to spot since it often sits out in the open, and I often see it on trips to Nicaragua just by looking out of the bus window at the roadsides.  Karel’s beautiful photo below shows to great advantage not only the lovely plumage of this bird but also its tail, which has even more “missing” feathers than does the Blue-crowned.

Turquoise-browed motmot (the guardabarrancos) in its dry-forest habitat.

Turquoise-browed motmot (el guardabarrancos) in its dry-forest habitat.


Of the remaining four motmot species (p. 146-147 Garrigues & Dean), the two with lots of rufous plumage (Rufous motmot and Broad-billed motmot) are a remote possibility in our area, but I could probably only find them down at San Diego, about thirty minutes’ walk downhill.  No luck at all so far. The last two (Keel-billed motmot and Tody motmot) are rare species found only in middle elevations of the north west.  I dream of them at night.



4 thoughts on “El Pájaro Bobo – Our motmot in San Antonio

  1. We will never forget seeing the Turquoise-browed Motmot and the Blue-crowned motmot! The other four species are on our wish list…. Costa Rica beckons us.


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