In my Costa Rican garden – Lesson’s Motmot

Lesson’s Motmot (Momotus lessonii): Momoto coroniazul; Diademmotmot; Motmot de Lesson

Some years ago I wrote about this rather common but very beautiful species when its official English name was changed from the rather alluring Blue-crowned Motmot to the much less appealing Lesson’s Motmot. You will note that the Spanish (Costa Rican) name retains the reference to the blue crown, while the German name refers to the fact that the crown of Costa Rican birds is not entirely blue. Stiles & Skutch’s definitive work, A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica (1989) already addressed this by referring to the Blue-diademed Motmot. This is another case of a ‘split’ species that may ultimately be returned to its previous, ‘lumped’ status.

I return to this colourful bird because this week, coinciding with a monster rainfall and the flooding that has completely cut off the canton of Turrialba from the rest of the country, an adult bird reappeared in my garden. John Beer’s photo below, from his own garden in nearby Santa Rosa, shows all the main field marks, starting with the distinctive blue ‘diadem’.

Adult Lesson’s Motmot at Santa Rosa; photo by John Beer

The central breast spot and the racquet-tipped tail are absent on immature birds. At a length of 16 inches Lesson’s Motmot is a fairly large bird that favours a sit-and-wait feeding strategy, usually perching in heavy shade and rather low down in the understory. It is frequently found in gardens that can provide the shelter of lots of shade and foliage. It supplements its main diet of large insects and small reptiles and amphibians by taking bananas and other fruit. Here in Turrialba it is at the far eastern edge of its Costa Rican range since it is primarily a bird of the Pacific region and the Central Valley. I last recorded it in my own garden in November 2017 and am delighted to again be able to see this stunning species up close daily.

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