They are typically divided into four lowland species, one each on the islands of Jamaica (T. todus), Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Hispaniola. A fifth mountain species is found also on Hispaniola. The lowland species are distinguished chiefly by call and breast coloration, and it has been suggested that they might be best considered as geographic races in a single species. The narrow-billed tody (T. angustrirostris) differs from the others in preferring high, humid forests.
Tody bills are typically broad and flattened, with serrated edges and stiff, whiskerlike rictal bristles. Typically observed perched in pairs on branches, todies wait until they spy prey, then quickly fly off to catch an insect on the wing or a small lizard on the ground. In flight, their wings make a loud, whirring noise which the birds can control and which is often associated with the mating season.
Todies nest in narrow ground tunnels, laying two to three, rarely four, white eggs per clutch. The nestlings are born gray-throated but soon molt to red. In Haiti, tody eggs are eaten.
Todies are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Coraciiformes, family Todidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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