Great Jacamar – a Caribbean rarity

Great Jacamar (Jacamerops aureus): Jacamar grande; Riesenglanzvogel; Grand jacamar

The Great Jacamar measures some 12″ in length and is one of only two jacamar species found in Costa Rica. It ranges from eastern Honduras south all the way to northern Bolivia and Brazil´s Mato Grosso. It´s a medium-sized bird measuring about a foot in length but it’s an extremely rare species. You’re most unlikely to bump into it anywhere in Costa Rica, and certainly not in our province of Cartago. I myself haven’t had such good fortune yet. Almost all Costa Rican records of this beautiful bird come from the Caribbean lowlands, with just one verified sighting (2013) out of normal range, which was in Monteverde, at around 800 m elevation by top Costa Rican birder Pat O´Donnell.

The female pictured here below was a thrilling find for friend and guide Steven Aguilar when he visited the Veragua Rainforest Park in the lowlands of Limón province earlier this month:

Female Great Jacamar; photo by Steven Aguilar

Steven also made a video that clearly shows more clearly the pale rufous colour of this bird’s throat – Great Jacamar males have a pure white throat. No, I regret to say I have absolutely no access to a photo of a male! Still, here’s another shot of this female as she gulps down a large insect:

Great Jacamar at Veragua Rainforest Park, Limón; photo by Steven Aguilar

I will post Steven’s video later if my sadly feeble technical expertise with WordPress ever becomes equal to the task!

Jacamars are members of the Galbulidae family. North American birders who encounter a jacamar here in Costa Rica might at first think they’re looking at a kingfisher, while Europeans will almost certainly think of the bee-eaters that are a familiar sight in Mediterranean areas and which are similar both in appearance and behaviour. The Rufous-tailed Jacamar (Galbula ruficauda) is by far the more likely to be encountered. The female below was photographed at nearby Angostura:

Female Rufous-tailed Jacamar with dull rufous throat; photo by John Beer
Rufous-tailed Jacamar; note the slender bill when compared with that of the Great Jacamar; photo by John Beer

Here’s a white-throated male adopting the jacamar’s typical sit-and-wait pose. Tausito is near Pejibaye, also not too far from Turrialba:

Male Rufous-tailed Jacamar at Tausito; photo by Sean Beer

The Rufous-tailed Jacamar is significantly smaller in length (9″) than the Great Jacamar and has been described as looking much like a giant hummingbird:

Male Rufous-tailed Jacamar at La Mina, near Tayutic; photo by John Beer

Jacamars are closely related to the puffbirds (Bucconidae) but are much more brightly coloured. If you come across one, have your camera handy because it will quite probably sit still so that you can get a great photo!

4 thoughts on “Great Jacamar – a Caribbean rarity

  1. Paul, thanks for sharing such wonderful pictures of this very beautiful bird. You post some amazing pictures and I always enjoy reading them. Hope you and your family are well, cheers, Chris


    • Hello Chris, I’m always telling people you’re one of the best folks I ever met, and not just in my California days, so it’s really great to hear from you again. You’re welcome here any time the dates fit.


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