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Cuban Tody

Todus multicolor

Cuban Tody

  • Order: Coraciiformes
  • Family: Todidae
  • Monotypic

Authors: Farnsworth, Andrew



A small, colorful bird, somewhat reminiscent of a kingfishers, with brilliant green head, backs, and wings, red throat and pink flanks.  This species is found commonly through Cuba, including offshore cays and islands, in a variety of habitats.  Individuals may often be quite tame and approachable; additionally, Cuban Tody vocalizes constantly, a ubiquitous component of the acoustic scene in many habitats across the isalnd.


Holguin, Cuba April 2008 © Lev Frid Holguin, Cuba April 2008 © Lev Frid


Holguin, Cuba April 2008 © Lev Frid Holguin, Cuba April 2008 © Lev Frid


Similar Species

The only tody found on Cuba, unlikely to be confused with any other species.


Characteristic call is a soft, rolling trill, similar to p-p-prr-reeee, repeated frequently (ML 112183). This sound is ubiquitous at most times of the day. Occasionally, will repeat a short phrase of notes, like "pot-pot-pot-pot" or "tot-tot-tot-tot," generally monotone in nature.  When vocalizing, the red feathers of the throat often extend and appear as small bristles.

Nonvocal Sounds

Wing whirring or wing rattling; bill snapping.

Detailed Description (appearance)

Camaguey, February 2009 © Carol S FoilA small bird with a distinctly big-headed appearance (typical of the entire genus), accentuated by a large flat bill (ML 39567).  The most brightly colored of the genus.  Bright green upperparts with gleaming yellowish-green supercilia (ML 39149).  Bright yellow lores with a sky blue auricular patch.  Blue carpal area, possibly more prominent in males, is in striking contrast to pink or pinkish flanks, white or whitish belly, and bright yellow crissum.  Sexes are similar.  A review of banding records (Pyle et al. 2004) shows that iris color in this species is variable, with recaptures showing retention of blue, brown, or grayish iris color over long periods of time.Camaguey, February 2009 © Carol S FoilJuvenile pluamge is much duller with whites replaced by grayish plumage and generally dull greens and yellows replacing any bright coloration.  Juveniles have dull grayish or horn-colored legs and lack red feathering in the throat, although these may appear very early, perhaps when birds are still in the nest (Pyle et al. 2004).  Iris color changed in some juveniles from grayish to browner as plumage changed.

Bare Parts

Maxilla usually black, possibly showing flesh or orange color at tip; mandible usually orange or pinkish-orange (ML 39339).  Feet and legs black or blackish-gray.  It is possible that leg color may also vary by sex but more study is needed to determine this (Pyle et al 2004.).


5.9 grams (range 4.3-8.5, N=265; Arendt et al 2004).  Wingspan, approximately 10.5-11 cm.  Wing chord (Pyle et al. 2004): males (N = 15), 39–45 mm, females (N = 15), 40–44 mm.


Available data come from Pyle et al. (2004), sampling 323 individuals, 730 captures, and 67 specimens (National Musem of Natural History, Washington, DC).  Prebasic molt (complete in after hatch-year birds and partial in hatch year birds) apparently takes place during July–early December.  Variation in the fullness and color (red vs. tinged orange) of the throat patch and amount and brightness of the yellow in the lores and forehead seems to vary slightly by sex, with females duller on average, but this would be difficult to use in sexing, except perhaps with mated pairs.

Geographic Variation

Birds on the Isle of Pines apparently have deeper blue auricular patches.  Otherwise, this species show limited variation throughout Cuba and the northern cays (Kepler 2001).


Described by Gould, 1837, western Cuba.  Monotypic.  Some have treated birds in eastern Cuba as a different subspecies based on slight differences in coloration, but this has never been considered sufficient evidence to warrant subspecific recognition (Kepler 2001).

Recommended Citation

Farnsworth, Andrew. 2009. Cuban Tody (Todus multicolor), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: