Racket Tips

The blue-crowned motmot is a colorful Central and South American bird with a striking face and red eyes.  The male also has two unusual tail feathers with bare shafts and racket tips.  Racket... as in tennis racket.

The  feathers don't start out this way.  When the male molts the feathers grow in normally but the middle radii are weakly attached to the shaft so they easily fall off during normal abrasion and preening.  The result is a fancy tail during the breeding season.

In the wild, the racket tips are very noticeable because the males swings his tail like a pendulum when disturbed.

Want to see a blue-crowned motmot in Pittsburgh? Visit the National Aviary.

(photo from Wikimedia Commons.  Click on the image to see the original)

2 thoughts on “Racket Tips

  1. Cool … always wondered about that. I had the good fortune to see a blue motmot (sporting racket tail feathers) sitting on a roadside wire fence, much like we would spot a bluebird here, while driving between national parks in Costa Rica.

  2. Ohhh, that explains their weird tails! I saw at least two turquoise-browed motmots during my vacation to Mexico last summer. They were probably the best birds I saw the whole trip. 🙂

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