Jacamars make expert maneuvers (mah-NOO-verz) as they swoop down from perches to capture colorful prey in mid-air. They spend most time on branches, staying alert for flying insects. After catching prey, jacamars grab the winged insect away from its wings or stinger in order not to become blinded by its fluttering wings or injured by its stinger. After perching, they beat it against a tree branch to kill it, and then remove the wings and stingers before eating it. They live generally in pairs, perching and hunting in the same area. Some species join in small family groups. Jacamars use a variety of calls to communicate, such as trills, squeals, whistles, and short songs, which are generally considered pleasant.
Male jacamars use a series of sharp calls during breeding season to attract a mate. The monogamous (muh-NAH-guh-mus; having one mate) pair builds nest holes in some species, while in other species only females do the work. The birds sometime drill holes for nests in deep riverbanks, using their bill to break up the soil and then their feet to remove soil by kicking it backwards. Other nest locations are on earthen banks or roots of fallen trees, while some use termite nests if other sites are unavailable. The nest occurs at the end of the tunnel in a horizontal, oval-shaped chamber. Tunnels are 12 to 36 inches (30
to 91 centimeters) long and about 2 inches (5 centimeters) wide. No materials are used for the nest, although eggs are often covered with a layer of partially digested food brought up from the parents' stomachs. Nests are used many times.
Females lay one to four round, glossy, white eggs that are not marked. Both parents incubate (sit on) the eggs during the day for one to three hours at a time. At night, the female incubate alone while the male defends the nest. Jacamars seldom leave eggs alone. While the female sits on the eggs, the male will feed his mate several times a day. The incubation period (time that it takes to sit on eggs before hatching) is twenty to twenty-three days. Newborn jacamars are born with white down. Both parents feed the young with insects. The nestling period, or the time it takes to take care of the young unable to leave the nest, is nineteen to twenty-six days. When they are ready to leave the nest, their plumage looks like the parents.
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