Physical characteristics: Dollarbirds are stocky, dark greenish-blue or purplish birds with a large head; short, thick neck; short legs; short-looking, square-ended tail; and short but broad, heavy red bill. They have broad and long wings with central tail feathers that are blackish with dark blue bases and outer feathers that are blackish with purple-blue edges and greenish-blue bases. Dollarbirds have white-silvery or pale blue "dollar"-like circles on their open wings, which is noticeable while flying. The forehead and chin are blackish brown; back of the neck and ears are very dark olive-brown; and back and rump are bluish olive. The throat is purple with narrow blue streaks; while the breast, sides, belly, undertail, and underwing areas are green-blue. Their eyes are dark brown, while legs and feet are bright red. They are 9.8 to 11.0 inches (25 to 28 centimeters) long, and weigh between 4.0 and 5.6 ounces (115 and 160 grams).
Geographic range: Dollarbirds are located from southeastern Asia to the Philippines, Indonesia and the northern and eastern coastal lands of Australia.
Habitat: Dollarbirds reside in deciduous woodlands, evergreen forests, forest margins, savannas, farmlands (such as rubber and coffee plantations), urban parks, and gardens, up to elevations of 4,900 feet (1,500 meters). They favor hot lowlands and foothills.
Diet: They eat large insects that are captured in flight, especially beetles, crickets, mantids, grasshoppers, cicadas (suh-KAY-duhz), shield-bugs, moths, and termites. Dollarbirds occasionally take insects from the ground. Once crushed by their bills, they are swallowed. They feed mostly in the late afternoon and evening.
Behavior and reproduction: Dollarbirds live alone or in pairs. For much of the day they sit inactively on a perch. They often wag their tail up and down when about to fly, but otherwise sit quietly, moving only the head. The birds migrate to higher latitudes from their normal residences in the tropics. They are rather silent, but occasionally are noisy, uttering a hoarse, raspy "chak," or a series of "krak-kak-kak" or "kek-ek-ek-ek-ek-k-k-k". Dollarbirds are noticeable with their high, rotating flights or when perched on top of high trees. They fly in large flocks when migrating or when feeding on swarms of flying insects.
They are monogamous birds that breed in the summer. The breeding pair will defend their nesting territory. Dollarbirds use loud calling and aerobatics, spectacular flying stunts, in courtship rituals. Females lay three or four eggs, which are laid in high tree hollows, sometimes in woodpecker holes. Nests are often used several years in a row. The incubation period is twenty-two to twenty-three days. Both parents feed the chicks. Parents and chicks leave for wintering areas when chicks are able to fly.
Dollarbirds and people: Dollarbirds have no known significance to humans.
Conservation status: Dollarbirds are not threatened. ■
FOR MORE INFORMATION
del Hoyo, Josep, Andrew Elliott, Jordi Sargatal, Jose Cabot, et al., eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, 1992.
Dickinson, Edward C., ed. The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World, 3rd ed. Princeton, NJ and Oxford, U.K.: Princeton University Press, 2003.
Forshaw, Joseph, ed. Encyclopedia of Birds, 2nd ed. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 1998.
Fry, C. Hilary, and Kathie Fry. Kingfishers, Bee-Eaters and Rollers: A Handbook. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992.
Harrison, Colin James Oliver. Birds of the World. London, U.K. and New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1993.
Perrins, Christopher M., and Alex L. A. Middleton, eds. The Encyclopedia of Birds. New York: Facts on File, 1985.
Stattersfield, Allison J., and David R. Capper, eds. Threatened Birds of the World: The Official Source for Birds on the IUCN Red List. Cambridge, U.K.: BirdLife International, 2000.
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