TODY, T. Pennant's rendering (Gen. Birds, pp. 15, 61) through the French Todier of M. J. Brisson (Ornithologie, iv. 528) of the somewhat obscure Latin word Todus, 1 not unhappily applied in 1756 by Patrick Browne (Civ. and Nat. Hist. Jamaica, p. 476) to a little bird remarkable for its slender legs and small feet, the " green sparrow " or " green hummingbird " of Sir H. Sloane (Voyage, ii. 306). The name, having been taken up by Brisson (loc. cit.) in 1760, was adopted by Linnaeus, and has since been recognized by ornithologists as that 1 In Forcellini's Lexicon (ed. De Vit, 1875) we find " Todusgenus parvissimae avis tibias habens perexiguas.' Ducange in his Glossarium quotes from Festus, an ancient grammarian, ' Toda est avis quae non habet ossa in tibiis; quare semper est in motu, unde Todiu (al. Todinus) dicitur ille qui velociter todet et movetur ad modum todae, et todere, moveri et tremere ad modum todae." The evidence that such a substantive as Todus or Toda existed seems to rest on the adjectival derivative found in a fragment of a lost play (Syrus) by Plautus, cited by this same Festus. It stands " cum extritis [extortis] talis, cum todillis [todinis] crusculis"; but the passage is held by scholars to be corrupt. Among naturalists Gesner in 1555 gave currency (Hist, animahum, iii. 719) to the word as a substantive, and it is found in Levins's Manipulus vocabulorum of 1570 (ed. Wheatley, 1867, col. 225) as the equivalent of the English " titmouse." Ducange allows the existence of the adjective todinus. Stephanus suggests that todi comes from rvrOol, but his view is not accepted. The verb todere may perhaps be Englished to " toddle " of a valid genus, though many species have been referred to it which are now known to have no affinity to the type, the Todus viridis of Jamaica, and accordingly have since been removed from it. The genus Todus was at one time placed among the Muscicapidae (cf. FLYCATCHER); but J. Murie's investigations (Proc. Zool. Society, 1872, pp. 664-680, pL Iv.) have conclusively proved that it is not passerine, and is nearly allied to the Momotidae (cf. MOTMOT) and Alcedinidae (cf. KINGFISHER), it being regarded as forming a distinct sub-family Todinae of the Momotidae peculiar to the Greater Antilles, each of which islands has its own species, all of small size, the largest not exceeding four inches and a half in length.
Of the species already named, T. viridis, P. H. Gosse (B. Jamaica, p. 7280) gives an interesting account. " Always conspicuous its bright grass-green, coat and, crimson-velvet gorget, it is still a very tame bird ; yet this seems rather the lameness of indifference than of confidence ; it will allow a person to approach very near, and, if disturbed, alight on another twig a few yards distant . . . commonly it is seen sitting patiently on a twig, with the head drawn in, the beak pointing upwards, the loose plumage puffed out, when it appears much larger than it is. It certainly has an air of stupidity when thus seen. But this abstraction is more apparent than real; if we watch it, we shall see that the odd-looking grey eyes are glancing hither and thither, and that ever and anon the bird sallies out upon a short feeble flight, snaps at something in the air, and returns to his twig to swallow it." The birds of the family also show their affinity to the kingfishers, motmots and bee-eaters by burrowing holes in the ground in which to make their nest, and therein laying eggs with a white translucent shell. The sexes differ little in plumage.
All the four species of Todus, as now restricted, present a general similarity of appearance, and possess very similar habits; and even these, by some ornithologists, might be regarded as geographical races. The Cuban form is T. multicolor; that of Haiti is 7". subulatus or dominicensis; and that of Porto Rico, originally [named in error T. mexicanus, has since been called hypochondriacus.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)