6582581911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 15 — JacamarAlfred Newton

JACAMAR, a word formed by Brisson from Jacameri, the Brazilian name of a bird, as given by Marcgrave, and since adopted in most European tongues for the species to which it was first applied and others allied to it, forming the family Galbulidae[1] of ornithologists, the precise position of which is uncertain, since the best authorities differ. All will agree that the jacamars belong to the great heterogeneous group called by Nitzsch Picariae, but further into detail it is hardly safe to go. The Galbulidae have zygodactylous or pair-toed feet, like the Cuculidae, Bucconidae and Picidae, they also resemble both the latter in laying glossy white eggs, but in this respect they bear the same resemblance to the Momotidae, Alcedinidae, Meropidae and some other groups, to which affinity has been claimed for them. In the opinion of Sclater (A Monograph of the Jacamars and Puff-birds) the jacamars form two groups—one consisting of the single genus and species Jacamerops aureus (J. grandis of most authors), and the other including all the rest, viz. Urogalba with two species, Galbula with nine, Brachygalba with five, and Jacamaralcyon and Galbalcyrhynchus with one each. They are all rather small birds, the largest known being little over 10 in. in length, with long and sharply pointed bills, and the plumage more or less resplendent with golden or bronze reflections, but at the same time comparatively soft. Jacamaralcyon tridactyla differs from all the rest in possessing but three toes (as its name indicates), on each foot, the hallux being deficient. With the exception of Galbula melanogenia, which is found also in Central America and southern Mexico, all the jacamars inhabit the tropical portions of South America eastward of the Andes, Galbula ruficauda, however, extending its range to the islands of Trinidad and Tobago.[2] Very little is known of the habits of any of the species. They are seen sitting motionless on trees, sometimes solitarily, at other times in companies, whence they suddenly dart off at any passing insect, catch it on the wing, and return to their perch. Of their nidification almost nothing has been recorded, but the species occurring in Tobago is said by Kirk to make its nest in marl-banks, digging a hole about an inch and a half in diameter and some 18 in. deep.  (A. N.) 

  1. Galbula was first applied to Marcgrave’s bird by Moehring. It is another form of Galgulus, and seems to have been one of the many names of the golden oriole. See Icterus.
  2. The singular appearance, recorded by Canon Tristram (Zoologist, p. 3906), of a bird of this species in Lincolnshire seems to require notice. No instance seems to be known of any jacamar having been kept in confinement or brought to this country alive; but expert aviculturists are often not communicative, and many importations of rare birds have doubtless passed unrecorded.