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Species Guide

Russet-crowned Motmot

Momotus mexicanus

The Russet-crowned Motmot, Momotus mexicanus, is a captivating bird species native to north-western Mexico and central Guatemala. This bird is a year-round resident of the tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests and scrubland. The term "russet" aptly describes the reddish-brown hue of the bird's head, a coloration that is a defining feature of this species.

Identification Tips

Adult Russet-crowned Motmots are relatively small, measuring between 30.5 to 35.5 cm in length and weighing 74 to 104 g. They exhibit a rufous crown and nape, with a green back and wings complemented by blue-green primary feathers. Their chest is pale green with a distinctive black spot, and the underbelly is even paler. A long blue tail with a bare section near the tip forms a dark racket-shaped tip. Their black bills are slightly serrated and curve downwards, and they possess a black eye-mask bordered by blue and violet feathers. Reddish eyes and grey legs and feet complete their appearance. Juveniles can be identified by their brown eyes and less vibrant plumage.


Russet-crowned Motmots thrive in old-growth forests with a closed canopy, but they are also found in secondary forests with substantial canopy coverage. They inhabit dry and humid tropical forests and clearings up to 1800m in altitude.


This species is distributed along the western coast of Mexico and in an isolated population in central Guatemala. They are commonly observed within their range, with four recognized subspecies varying in morphology and distribution.


Russet-crowned Motmots are known for their strong site fidelity, often returning to the same nesting areas due to the scarcity of suitable nesting sites. This sedentary behavior can lead to limited gene flow between populations and potential speciation.

Song & Calls

The vocal repertoire of the Russet-crowned Motmot includes a low "krrp", "krrup", or "kru, krr-up" call, which can be strung together to form a longer call. They also emit a hollow "ook", and mated pairs engage in call-and-response duets.


These birds are socially monogamous, with both sexes sharing the responsibility of caring for the brood. Breeding occurs once per year during the wet season, with a small clutch of 4–5 eggs laid per breeding season. The incubation period ranges from 15 to 20 days, and fledglings leave the nest after 30 to 42 days.

Similar Species

The four subspecies of the Russet-crowned Motmot exhibit variations in their morphology, which can be useful in distinguishing them from one another.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of Russet-crowned Motmots includes large invertebrates, fruits, and small vertebrates. They employ a "flycatching" strategy, perching on low branches and darting out to catch prey or bite fruit, then returning to their perches to consume their catch.

Conservation status

The IUCN lists the Russet-crowned Motmot as Least Concern, but their habitats face threats from climate change and human activity. Suitable nesting sites are decreasing, and habitat fragmentation increases the risk of brood parasitism and predation. Conservation efforts are necessary to prevent potential endangerment.

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Russet-crowned Motmots on Birda

A map showing the sighting location
James Leone
24 Mar 2024 - 12:37pm

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