Unsorted Wild Birds

Rufous Motmots

Rufous Motmots aka Martin’s Rufous Motmots

Rufous Motmots (Baryphthengus martii) - also known as Martin's Rufous Motmots


The Rufous Motmots (Baryphthengus martii) – also known as Martin’s Rufous Motmots – are colorful birds found in Central and South America, where they inhabit tall humid lowland and hill forests and second growth. These largest of all motmot species are relatively common within their range.

Distribution / Habitat

Rufous Motmots occur naturally in the rain forests from northeastern Honduras in Central America south to western Ecuador, northeastern Bolivia, and southwestern Brazil in South America. They are residents (non-migratory).

They are typically associated with lowland evergreen forest areas:

  • Costa Rica: up to about 4,100 feet (~ 1,250 meters)
  • Southern Panama and Ecuador: up to about 4,600 feet (~ 1,400 meters)
  • Peru: up to about 4,300 feet (~ 1,300 meters), locally as high as 5,200 feet (~1,600 meters)

They typically remain close to bodies of water and are often seen in pairs.

Subspecies and Ranges:

Rufous Motmot (nominate race) (Baryphthengus martii martii – Spix, 1824) – Southern Form

Range: From southeastern Colombia south to northern Bolivia and east to the Rio Tapajos in Brazil.

Rufous Motmot (ssp. semirufus) (Baryphthengus martii semirufus – Sclater,PL, 1853) – Northern Form

Range: Eastern Honduras, Eastern Nicaragua, Caribbean slopes of Costa Rica and Panama, northwestern Colombia (to the eastern bank of the Magdalena River in Boyacá), and western Ecuador west of the Andes mountain range.

[Rufous Motmot (ssp. costaricensis) (Baryphthengus martii semirufus [costaricensis] – Todd, 1943] – The Costa Rican and Nicaraguan form is not universally recognized as a subspecies despite their larger size and some minor differences in coloration. They are typically lumped together with ssp. semirufus



Average Length: 18 inches or 46 cm in length.

Average Weight: 6.9 oz or 195 g.

Plumage Details / Adults

The plumage is mostly cinnamon-rufous; except for a black face mask, black central chest spot, green wings and sides, a greenish-blue lower abdomen, and a deep blue tail and flight feathers.

Other Physical Details / Adults

  • Very long tails with a bare-shafted racket tips. Excited, agitated, or disturbed birds have been observed swinging their tails in side-to-side pendulum motions.
  • Black bill and legs
  • The bill and legs are black.

Juvenile Description

Immature birds lack tail rackets, and black chest spots and are generally more plum plumaged than adults.

Similar Species

  • The Rufous Motmot can be differentiated from other Motmots by its larger size and the absence of the bright, glossy patches of turquoise blue that can be seen on the head of many other Motmot species.
  • The smaller Broad-billed Motmot (Electron platyryhnchum) is, however, nearly identical, and their ranges overlap in Honduras south to Peru and Bolivia and east to northwestern Brazil.

Diet / Feeding

Rufous Motmots feed on …

  • Animal foods, such as larval and adult insects (including beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, katydids, roaches, and wasps), arachnids (including spiders, scorpions, and whip scorpions), lizards, fish, crabs, and frogs. Animal prey is beaten on a branch or other substrate before consuming.
  • Fruits and vegetation: Fruits of Heliconias, nutmegs (Virola), palms, berries, as well as seeds of Inga and Protium.

Breeding / Nesting

The breeding season varies by location, but most breeding activities have been observed between March and June.

They nest in 10 to 16-foot (3 – 5 meter) long burrows that both parents dig and/or refurbish (abandoned mammal burrows).

A clutch generally consists of 3 – 5 eggs, but on occasion, as few as 2 or as many as 6 eggs are laid.

Calls / Vocalizations / Sounds / Movies

Its song is described as a rapid, owl-like hoop hoop huhuhuhuhuhu.


Alternate (Global) Names

Chinese: ??? … Czech: Momot skoricový, momot sko?icový … Danish: Rødbrun Motmot … Estonian: suurmotmot … Finnish: Amazonianmomotti … French: Motmot roux … German: Zimtbrustmotmot … Guarani: Marakana yvyguy … Hungarian: rozsdásfej? motmot … Italian: Motmot rossiccio / rugginoso … Japanese: amazonoohachikuimodoki … Norwegian: Kanelmotmot … Polish: Pi?odziób rdzawy … Portuguese: Juruva-canela/ruiva … Russian: ????? / ????? ????? … Slovak: Momot škoricový / škoricovoprsý … Spanish: Barranquero Pechicastaño, Burgo Canelo, Guardabarranco Canelo Mayor, Momoto canelo mayor, Momoto Yeruvá Occidental … Swedish: Rödbrun motmot

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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