Say “howdy” to our two new blue-crowned motmot chicks!

Meet the newest additions to our Upland Tropical Rain Forest bird collection: two blue-crowned motmot chicks!

Blue-crowned motmots are neotropical birds known for their unusual nesting behaviors. Parent birds excavate long tunnels in the ground where they lay eggs and raise their offspring.

Map showing neotropic ecozone, Central and South America

Neotropic Ecozone

Late this summer, Aquarium aviculturalists were excited to learn that our pair was raising chicks in their burrow. Since it is not possible to see what is going on underground, our aviculturists had to interpret the adult birds’ behavior to monitor the brooding and hatching processes.

When Rain Forest staff observed that one of the motmots was not present during the morning inventory and reappeared later that day while the other member of the pair had disappeared, they assumed that the adult motmots were taking turns incubating eggs in the underground nest. When the adult birds began carrying food into the tunnel (first insects and then, later, “pinkie” mice), they knew that the chicks had hatched. After about four weeks, our staff noticed the parent birds sitting at the tunnel entrance with food in their bills, trying to entice the chicks to emerge from underground.

On September 22, two Motmot chicks emerged from their tunnel and Aquarium staff spotted them in the Rain Forest. By the time motmot chicks leave their burrows, they are fully feathered, able to fly, and nearly adult-sized.

Motmot Chick

When the two chicks emerged, they were banded, weighed, and placed in a “howdy cage” where our Aquarium aviculturists will finish rearing them. The howdy cage helps the chicks get familiarized with the new environment, while allowing them to feel safe and secure in their own space.

Thanks to DNA analysis, we know that one of the chicks is a male, and one is a female. Our aviculturists named them Ichabod Crane and Sweeny Todd.

The introduction of these two chicks into our Upland Tropical Rain Forest exhibit marks the first successful hatching of this species of bird at the Aquarium in more than 25 years. The blue-crowned motmot is one of 322 animals under the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Population Management Plan Program. We are proud to add these two new motmots to the collective zoo and aquarium population.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the two colorful motmot chicks in the Upland Tropical Rain Forest exhibit the next time you visit.

Pair of motmot chicks in "howdy cage"

Pair of blue-crowned motmot chicks acclimating to their new environment in their "howdy cage."

1 Response to “Say “howdy” to our two new blue-crowned motmot chicks!”


  1. 1 Corey W October 13, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    This is great! I remember being a volunteer there (late 90s, early 00s) and the Mot Mots were my all time favorite birds! I was happy to see a pair of them in the wild while in Costa Rica, and now realize I must have been near their den, they dive bombed me on a regular basis (LOL!). I never knew they nested in tunnels!

    I wonder how long until they grow and groom their feathers into those cool tail feathers you see on adults?


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