Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited
Vol 1. February, 1897 No. 2
MEXICAN MOT MOT.
The Houton, (so called from his note,) according to Waterson, ranks high in beauty among the birds of Demerara. This beautiful creature seems to suppose that its beauty can be increased by trimming its tail, which undergoes the same operation as one’s hair in a barber shop, using its own beak, which is serrated, in lieu of a pair of scissors. As soon as its tail is fully grown, he begins about an inch from the extremity of the two longest feathers in it and cuts away the web on both sides of the shaft, making a gap about an inch long. Both male and female wear their tails in this manner, which gives them a remarkable appearance among all other birds.
To observe this bird in his native haunts, one must be in the forest at dawn. He shuns the society of man. The thick and gloomy forests are preferred by the Houton. In those far extending wilds, about day-break, you hear him call in distinct and melancholy tone, “Houton, Houton!” An observer says, “Move cautiously to the place from which the sound proceeds, and you will see him sitting in the underwood, about a couple of yards from the ground, his tail moving up and down every time he articulates “Houton!”.”
The Mot Mot lives on insects and berries found among the underwood, and very rarely is seen in the lofty trees. He makes no nest, but rears his young in a hole in the sand, generally on the side of a hill.
Mr. Osbert Salvin tells this curious anecdote: “Some years ago the Zoological Society possessed a specimen which lived in one of the large cages of the parrot house by itself. I have a very distinct recollection of the bird, for I used every time I saw it to cheer it up a bit by whistling such of its notes as I had picked up in the forests of America. The bird always seemed to appreciate this attention, for although it never replied, it became at once animated, hopped about the cage, and swung its tail from side to side like the pendulum of a clock. For a long time its tail had perfect spatules, but toward the end of its life I noticed that the median feathers were no longer trimmed with such precision, and on looking at its beak I noticed that from some cause or other it did not close properly, gaped slightly at the tip, and had thus become unfitted for removing the vanes of the feathers.”
By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches. (Psalms 104:12 KJV)
Here is a nice video of a Turquoise-browed Motmot from IBC. What a neat family of birds the Motmot – Momotidae’s contains. There are 14 fantastically created birds species of Motmots in 6 Genus. Our Turquoise-browed is the only one in the Eumomota genus, but at present their are 7 supspecies.
“The bird is approximately 13 in (4 cm) long and weighs about 1.2 oz (65 gr). It has a mostly green body with a rufous back and belly. There is a bright blue stripe above the eye and a blue-bordered black patch on the throat. The flight feathers and upperside of the tail are blue. The tips of the tail feathers are shaped like rackets and the bare feather shafts are longer than in other motmots. Although it is often said that motmots pluck the barbs off their tail to create the racketed shape, this is not true; the barbs are weakly attached and fall off due to abrasion with substrates and with routine preening.
Unlike most bird species, where only males express elaborate traits, the Turquoise-browed Motmot expresses the extraordinary racketed tail in both sexes. Research indicates that the tail functions differently for the sexes. Males apparently use their tail as a mating signal, as males with longer tails have greater pairing success and reproductive success. In addition to this function, the tail is used by both sexes in a wag-display, whereby the tail is moved back-and-forth in a pendulous fashion. The wag-display is performed in a context unrelated to mating: both sexes perform the wag-display in the presence of a predator, and the display is thought to confer naturally selected benefits by communicating to the predator that it has been seen and that pursuit will not result in capture. This form of interspecific communication is referred to as a pursuit-deterrent signal.” (Wikipedia-edited)
Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited – Introduction
The above article is the first article in the monthly serial for February 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.
To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited
(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)
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Motmot – Momotidae Family