Rufous-tailed Jacamar

Rufous-tailed Jacamar (Galbula ruficauda): Jacamar rabirrufo; Rotschwanz-Glanzvogel; Jacamar à queue rousse

Jacamars are members of their own avian family, Galbulidae. Only two species inhabit Costa Rica, the Great Jacamar (Jacamerops aureus) and today’s bird, the much more widely distributed Rufous-tailed Jacamar. I can find no records of the former for the Turrialba area and have seen the latter only very occasionally. A Rufous-tailed Jacamar at Angostura is therefore excellent news. It seems to be a first for that location though it has been reported once or twice at nearby Atirro, and at Casa Turire. There are even old sightings where I would never have suspected, close to my house at Guayabo National Monument and at the coffee town of Aquiares.

With its long bill and tail this bird looks rather like a giant hummingbird or, for European visitors, a bee-eater perhaps. The green and rufous-buff plumage makes for a handsome bird.

Rufous-tailed Jacamar at Angostura; photo by John Beer

The buffy throat of this individual indicates a female:

Jacamars are now believed to be most closely related to the puffbirds, with whom they share the habit of quietly perching while awaiting passing prey. This generally consists of butterflies and other flying insects. The bill is typically held tilted upwards, as here again in this file photo of a white-throated male:

Rufous-tailed Jacamar; photo by Richard Garrigues

Interestingly, research indicates that jacamars distinguish between edible and less palatable butterflies not so much by the colour of the insect but rather by the shape of the body.

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