Cuban Tody

Content for this page researched and created by Aubrae Latta

Photo by Rafy Rodriguez
Photo by Rafy Rodriguez

The Cuban tody, also called Todus multicolor, is a bird that is characterized by the small size of the body and large head (Rieke).In fact, this bird is so small that it could fit in the palm of a grown person’s hand. The length of the Cuban tody’s head including the beak, is thirty-four millimeters and it’s cranium is only nine millimeters thick. The Cuban tody weighs between six to six and half grams (Anamalia Life). It has a broad flat bill with a bright green upper body, wings, and tail, a red throat and mandibles, pink flanks, and blue patches on either side of its neck. Its underside is all white except for the yellow under their tail (Alexander). The Cuban tody is the most vibrantly colored of the five species of todies (Wildlife Guideline), and it also has the smallest beak out of all the other species of todies (Animalia Life). The colors of the Cuban tody helps to camouflage them in their surroundings of plants and flowers (John). They are similar to a bird found on the opposite side of Cuba called Todus angustirostris, the narrow billed tody, but the two birds are differentiated by slight color differences (Handbook of the Birds).

Cuban todies make three sounds, a “totting” sound that is very common, a second sound that is not as common but which has a shorter lower frequency and a third sound that is created from the movement of the wings (Ornithology). The tody’s  high pitched voice has a rapid sound like that of an alarm, a sharp repetitive tot-tot-tot sound (Hand book of Birds). Between eastern and western Cuban todies there is a variation of songs that is thought to be genetically determined (Eneider and Emmanuel).

The Cuban tody breed is a very vigorous forager (BirdNote). They usually hunt at least nine feet off the ground (Species Account). Their main diet includes insects, with some small fruits, spiders and small lizards. Their only predators are humans and mongooses (Rieke). The Cuban tody shares similar vegetation preference with the Loggerhead Kingbird, and the Cuban Green Woodpecker (George). Cuban todies can catch between one or two insects per minute and hunt all day long (BirdNote). This bird is incredibly hard to photograph because it likes to reside in thick vegetation and areas of low light. Also, when it is not perching in this dense vegetation, it flies too fast to easily be photographed (Top Ten Birds).

Photo by Francesco Veronesi
Photo by Francesco Veronesi

The Cuban tody can be found in a variety of terrain but most commonly they are found in shaded areas next to streams and rivers (Species Account).  Although, they tend to be very adaptable to their environment and will thrive whether in wet, thicket, or woods (Handbook of the Birds). They usually dig tunnels into embankments or hollow tree trunks to create their nest (Wildlife Guideline) and may start excavating burrows as early as September. These tunnels, though  are not the tunnels used for eggs. Instead, they are used as nighttime refuges for the adult birds during the weeks while the egg tunnel is being constructed. During the creation of their nest the two, male and female, todies take turns digging into the embankment or tree trunk (Alexander). They cover the tunnel walls with a sealant, which is a mixture of grass, algae, feathers, and lichen (Wildlife Guideline). In the tunnels they create sharp turns to discourage predators and at the end of each tunnel construct a chamber that holds an average of two to three eggs (Alexander).

The Cuban tody has the smallest eggs in the Todus family (Animalia Life). Its eggs are a glossy, white color and have an extremely fragile shell. (Alexander). These birds breed between the months of April to June (Animalia Life). The age and mating patterns of this bird’s species is common throughout multiple birds from Cuba and similar to the birds in North America (Peter). As part of a bonding ritual male todies will exclusively feed their female mates. (Alexander).

There are only five species of todies in the world, and it is fascinating that they are all now found on the Caribbean islands (Wildlife Guideline). The todies do not migrate during the season changes and are protective of their territory (Animalia Life). The Cuban tody is a bird that is endemic to Cuba (Birdlife International).

The Cuban tody is not an endangered species but in fact is a very common bird in Cuba (Behavior and Reproduction). However, due to aerial spraying of pesticides, the Cuban tody population is expected to decrease in some areas (Birdlife International). Also on occasion, people in poor economic situations may eat todies and that can affect their population. Most people, though, enjoy watching them as beautiful creatures (Behavior and Reproduction).

Photo by Rafy Rodriguez
Photo by Rafy Rodriguez

During a test done in Cuba in the year 2000, out of forty-nine different bird species, the Cuban tody was the most often found present and highest in population all across Cuba (Elena). Different studies showed that the Cuban tody is a circumference species, which means that it is a species that likes to group with other species of birds (Stephen). Research found that the Jamaican tody’ evolved from the Cuban tody (Lowell and Douglas). Paleontologists have also found skeletons of the Cuban todies  in Southern Germany suggesting that they were, at one point, not only surviving and living there,ut also possibly originating from there (Gerald and Norbert).

The Cuban todies unlike other birds are more tame than wild acting when in front of people. They bob their heads, look right at the person and then freeze in a place in front of the person (John). The Cuban tody is a beautifully rainbow colored bird that is tiny as a stress ball, and very common throughout Cuba.


General Bibliographies

Cuban Tody. Animalia Life. 2014. Web. 29 September 2015.

Cuban Tody (Todus multicolor). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. 2012. Web. 13 September 2015.

Cuban Tody. Skullsite. Web. 13 September 2015.

The Cuban Tody.BirdNote. 2014. Web. 7 September 2015.

Todies: Todidae – Behavior And Reproduction. Jrank Free Encylopedia: p 891. 2015. Web. 7 September 2015.

Todies: Todidae – Cuban Tody (todus Multicolor): Species Account. Jrank Free       Encyclopedia: p 892. 2015. Web. 7 September 2015.

Todus multicolor. BirdLife International Species factsheet. 2015. Web. 29 September 2015.

Rieke, E. Todus multicolor. Fellowship of the Minds. 2009. Web. 13 September 2015.      

Top Ten Birds from the DNS trip to Cuba. The Nature of Delaware. 2013. Web. 23            September 2015.

Wildlife Guideline. Pbs Nature. 2008. Web. 20 September 2015.

Scientific References

Daniel, John. “The Cuban Tody (Todus Multicolor)”. The Wilson Bulletin. 1902: 113-116. Jstor. Web. 4 September 2015.

Eaton, Stephen. “Wood Warblers Wintering in Cuba”. The Wilson Bulletin. 1953: 169-174.   Jstor. Web. 20 September 2015.

Ibarra, Elena. “Bird Surveys in the Mogote Vegetational Complex in the Sierra Del            Infierno, Pinar Del Rio, Cuba, June 2000.” El Pitirre: 7. Google Scholar. Web. 8 October 2015.

Mayr, Gerald, and Norbert Micklich. “New Specimens of the Avian Taxa Eurotrochilus    (Trochilidae) and Palaeotodus (Todidae) from the Early Oligocene of Germany.”        Paläontologische Zeitschrift 84.3 (2010): 387-95. Lion Search. Web. 8 October 2015.

Mena, Eneider E. Perez and Mora, Emmanuel C. “Geographic song Variation in the Non-

Oscine Cuban Tody (Todus Multicolor)”. Wilson Journal Of Ornithology. March 2011. Web Of Science. Web. 4 September 2015.

“Ornithology; Findings from Institute of Ecology Provide New Insights into Ornithology.”

Global Warming Focus (2011): 34. ProQuest. Web. 23 Sep. 2015.

Overton, Lowell C., and Douglas D. Rhoads. “Molecular Phylogenetic Relationships Based on Mitochondrial and Nuclear Gene Sequences for the Todies ( Todus, Todidae) of the Caribbean.” Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 32.2 (2004): 524-38. Lion   Search. Web. 8 October 2015.

Pyle, Peter, et al. “Molt Patterns and Age and Sex Determination of Selected Southeastern   Cuban  Landbirds.” Journal of Field Ornithology 75.2 (2004): 136-45. Lion Search. Web. 8 October 2015.

Skutch, Alexander F. 1904-2004. Helpers At Birds’ Nests: a Worldwide Survey of Cooperative Breeding And Related Behavior. An expanded ed. Iowa City, Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 1999. Web. 29 September 2015.

Wallace, George E., et al. “Winter surveys of forest-dwelling Neotropical migrant  and resident    birds in three regions of Cuba.” Condor (1996): 745-768. Google  Scholar. Web. 8  October 2015.


Image Bibliographies

Rodriguez, Rafy. Barrancolies Del Caribe- Caribbean Todies- Familia Todidae. Digital image. Flickr. Google, 15 Sept. 2011. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.

Rodriguez, Rafy. Cartacuba-Cuban Tody-Todus Multicolor. Digital image. Flickr. Creative Commons, 24 May 2013. Web. 23 Sept. 2015.

Veronesi, Francesco. Cuban Tody. Digital image. Flickr. Google, 6 Jan. 2012. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.