Puerto Rican Tody Todus mexicanus

  • Order: Coraciiformes
  • Family: Todidae
  • Monotypic
  • Authors: Aleshia Fremgen

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

Male Puerto Rican Tody vocalizing.
© Jay McGowan , Guánica , Puerto Rico , 20 April 2014


Although Puerto Rican Tody can be difficult to see, it is often heard (Kepler 1972, Raffaele et al. 1998).  Calls are suppressed during cloudy and rainy days, and todies are most vocal from February to May (Kepler 1972).  Year-round Puerto Rican Tody makes a beep call and loud, nasal beep call; during the breeding season, they make a bee-beep, a beep followed by a trill, or a guttural feeding call (Kepler 1972, Raffaele 1989).

The beep call is a contact call uttered by both sexes at a rate of about one call per second, audible from 50 meters away (Kepler 1972). Several variations exist. The regular call is given during foraging, and a low-pitched call is made as todies approach their burrows (Kepler 1972). Sharp loud, staccato beep calls are used to signal danger, and accelerated calls are used during periods of excitement (Kepler 1972). The loud beep is more nasal and harsh, and approximately three times longer than the normal call (Kepler 1972). It is used for territorial displays, and almost always made by males (Kepler 1972).

Male and female todies both make a rapid double-beep call (bee-beep) with a shorter first note and a longer second note, audible up to 150 meters away (Kepler 1972). The call is used to warn fledglings of predators and to coax them from the nest to feed, to defend territories against conspecifics, or when arriving at the burrow (Kepler 1972). Adult males and females also make a low and muffled beep call with multiple nearly indistinguishable notes as they excavate nest-tunnels, and it is rarely audible over 5 meters away (Kepler 1972). A beep followed by a downward trill is used during the breeding season for adults and young to communicate (Kepler 1972).  A guttural feeding call occurs very rarely, by adults preparing to feed young (Kepler 1972).

Juveniles make high-pitched squeaks as nestlings, or loud trills when hungry (Kepler 1972). About two to three days after fledging, chicks attempt high-pitched beep calls that quickly become vocalizations that sound like an adult (Kepler 1972).

Additional recordings are available at xeno-canto and the Macaulay Library.

Nonvocal Sounds

Wing rattles are made by males and females in flight with narrow tipped primaries, although todies can fly without wing rattles as well (Kepler 1972, Raffaele 1989). The wing-rattle is a whirring noise like pulling a finger quickly across comb-teeth, and it is usually accompanied by vocalizations (Kepler 1972). Wing rattles occur most frequently on sunny weather throughout the year, although the sound does not carry far (Kepler 1972). Wing-rattles are most commonly used for territorial defense primarily from January to May but are also used for nest defense, courtship, and when flying in and out of their nest burrows (Kepler 1972).

Recommended Citation

Fremgen, A. (2018). Puerto Rican Tody (Todus mexicanus), version 2.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.purtod1.02