Bird O'clock

Uncovering the Fascinating Behavior of the Whooping Motmot in Central and South America

The Whooping Motmot, scientifically known as Momotus subrufescens, is a bird species that belongs to the family Momotidae. This bird is native to the tropical regions of Central and South America, specifically found in the Amazonian regions.

In this article, we will discuss the identification, plumages, and molts of this interesting bird. Identification:

The Whooping Motmot is a medium-sized bird that measures around 36 cm in length, with a wingspan of 48 cm.

The male and female look alike, with a green upper body, brownish belly, and a prominent crest on top of the head. The bird’s most distinguishing feature is its long, racquet-shaped tail, with two bare feather shafts that extend outwards.

In terms of field identification, one can spot the bird by restlessly flicking its tail, making it easy to identify even if they are hiding among the thick foliage of the forest. The bird’s call is also a unique feature that can differentiate it from other birds in the same area.

The Whooping Motmot’s call is a loud and melancholic “woo-woo-woo,” which it repeats several times. Similar Species:

Often, the Whooping Motmot is confused with other motmot species such as the Broad-billed Motmot, the Blue-crowned Motmot, and the Rufous Motmot.

However, the Whooping Motmot’s tail is much longer than other motmots, and it has a different tail pattern. Additionally, the Whooping Motmot’s crest is much shorter than other species, and it lacks any blue feathers.

Hence, these features make it distinguishable from other motmot species. Plumages:

The Whooping Motmot has a bright green body, brown belly, and a distinctive crest.

However, this bird has three plumage variations that result from molting and aging. The first plumage is the juvenile plumage, which is primarily olive green and brown, with a muted crest.

This plumage occurs when the bird is a fledging and is still learning to fly. The second plumage is the immature plumage, which is similar to the adult plumage, but the bird’s tail lacks the iconic racquet shape.

The crest is also shorter and less noticeable in the immature stage. This plumage happens when the Whooping Motmot reaches sexual maturity, but it has not developed its full adult plumage.

Lastly, the adult plumage is vibrant and striking, with a bright green back and a prominent crest. The bird’s tail has fully developed the racquet shape and the visible bare feather shafts.

The adult plumage begins to form between 12 to 18 months of age, and it does not vary much between males and females. Molts:

Molts in birds refer to the process of shedding old feathers and replacing them with new ones.

The Whooping Motmot has two molts, the pre-basic molt, and the pre-alternate molt. The pre-basic molt occurs during the bird’s breeding season, and it replaces the old feathers with new ones, which are shorter, duller, and easier to fly with.

The pre-alternate molt occurs when the bird’s breeding season is over, and it replaces the new feathers with full, bright, and longer feathers, which are necessary for attracting mates for the next breeding season. Final Thoughts:

The Whooping Motmot is an incredible bird with unique features that set it apart from other bird species.

Its stunning plumage, notable crest, and unmistakable racquet-shaped tail make it easy to identify, even from a distance. Understanding its plumages and molts helps in identifying the bird’s age and stage of maturity.

Next time you visit the tropical forests of Central or South America, look out for the striking Whooping Motmot and enjoy its melodious “woo-woo-woo.”

The Whooping Motmot, scientifically known as Momotus subrufescens, is a bird species that is part of the family Momotidae. The history of its systematics tells a story not only of its classification but also of its distribution and evolution.

In this article, we will explore the history of the Whooping Motmot’s systematics, including its geographic variation, subspecies, related species, and historical changes to its distribution. Systematics History:

The Whooping Motmot was first described by the French ornithologist Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot in 1817.

Since then, scientists have been attempting to systematically classify the bird into various subfamilies. Initially, the Whooping Motmot was classified under the subfamily Alcedininae.

Later, ornithologists believed that the bird showed characteristics of the Coraciidae family, and they classified the Whooping Motmot under the subfamily of Momotinae. In the mid-twentieth century, a group of ornithologists recognized several genera of the Momotidae family, including Momotus, Hylomanes, Aspatha, and Baryphthengus.

Thus, the Whooping Motmot was officially assigned to the genus Momotus. Geographic Variation:

The Whooping Motmot is primarily found in the tropical regions of Central and South America, covering the Amazon basin, northern Argentina, and Paraguay.

The bird’s distinctive crest, tail, and overall body coloration remain relatively constant across its distribution range. Nonetheless, minor variations occur within its geographic range due to differences in environmental conditions, leading to geographic variation.


The Whooping Motmot has several recognized subspecies, each with distinct geographical locations and minor differences in plumage, vocalizations, and size. The classification of subspecies also helps in identifying the bird’s origins and migration patterns over ages.

The subspecies M. s.

momota is found in northern Venezuela, the Guianas, and Brazil north of the Amazon River. This subspecies has a distinct dark-brown belly, whereas the subspecies M.

s. coeruliceps, found in southeastern Brazil, has a brighter belly.

M. s.

bahamensis is found in the northern part of South America, including Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia. This subspecies has a slightly smaller crest than the other subspecies.

Related Species:

The Momotidae family comprises several other bird species closely related to the Whooping Motmot. These species include Rufous Motmot (Baryphthengus martii), Blue-crowned Motmot (Momotus momota), and Turquoise-browed Motmot (Eumomota superciliosa).

The Rufous Motmot is closely related to the Whooping Motmot, with a similar range and distribution area. However, the Rufous Motmot has a reddish-brown coloration and lacks the prominent crest and racquet-shaped tail of the Whooping Motmot.

The Blue-crowned Motmot is found in Central America and northern South America, and it resembles the Whooping Motmot in size and shape. However, it has a bright blue coloration on top of the head and lacks the distinctive tail of the Whooping Motmot.

The Turquoise-browed Motmot is found in Mexico, Central America, and the northern parts of South America. It has a similar-looking crest and coloration as the Whooping Motmot, but with a shorter tail and more vibrant turquoise coloration.

Historical Changes to Distribution:

Historically, the distribution of Whooping Motmot has been affected by human activities, including deforestation, wildfires, and other habitat alterations. These activities have led to the fragmentation of its natural habitat and, thus, changes in the bird’s range.

The Whooping Motmot was once found throughout the Amazon basin, but in recent years, they have become more localized. Some isolated populations have been identified in the northern sections of the Brazilian Amazon, amongst others.

The change in the bird’s distribution has been attributed to several factors such as climate change, habitat fragmentation, and human intrusion. Final Thoughts:

The Whooping Motmot, with its unique features and systematics history, continues to be a fascinating bird species among ornithologists.

From its initial classification to the recognition of various subspecies, the bird’s systematics history has shown how naming and classification can help in understanding biodiversity and evolution. Although human activities are threatening its natural habitat, the Whooping Motmot remains a remarkable bird species to see and learn about in the wild.

The Whooping Motmot, Momotus subrufescens, is a bird species that primarily inhabits tropical forests in Central and South America. In this article, we will delve into its habitat preferences, movements, and migration patterns.


The Whooping Motmot prefers dense tropical forests, including rainforests and humid forest areas. The bird is well adapted to the forest environment with its strong feet and beak, which enables it to thrive in the dense understory and treetops.

Additionally, the Whooping Motmot requires mature forest habitats as it depends heavily on the availability of large insects and other prey in the forest floor. The bird’s habitat preference is also influenced by the presence of tree cavities, which it uses to roost and nest.

A male and female pair build the nest together, digging a burrow usually 10-20 feet off the ground, with the female laying a clutch of up to four eggs. Movements and Migration:

While the Whooping Motmot is primarily a non-migratory bird, research has shown that the species exhibits some movements within its range.

Though, it is still unclear if this movement qualifies as a migration since it is not seasonal or over long distances.

Young birds tend to disperse from their natal sites during the non-breeding season, presumably in search of new habitats and to avoid competition.

Unlike other bird species, the Whooping Motmot is not known as a long-distance migrant, making use of its habit of dispersal. Studies have shown that the bird’s movements within its range are influenced by resource availability.

In areas where food is scarce, such as during droughts, the Whooping Motmot moves to locations with abundant resources. This migration is not seasonal, and the bird’s movement patterns are unpredictable.

Historically, the bird’s movements and migration may have been influenced by factors such as climate change and habitat loss, leading to changes in their locations. Large-scale deforestation is known to alter the natural habitats of Whooping Motmots, forcing birds to move to other areas or risk extinction.

Population sizes of the Whooping Motmot have decreased in areas where forest fragmentation has reduced populations size. The lack of sufficient food and breeding habitats in such areas has led to a decline in population sizes.


Given their preference for mature forest habitats and the overall decline in suitable forest habitats, the Whooping Motmot’s conservation status is of concern. Habitat destruction through deforestation and logging poses one of the main threats to the bird’s survival.

Aside from habitat loss, the bird is also under threat from farming activities, such as creating open fields, which might hinder fragmentation of forests. In some regions, the bird is hunted for traditional medicine or as hunting targets.

Although the bird is not listed as a threatened species, these threats to its habitat and ecosystem suggest a population decline of unknown magnitude. Conservation efforts, including afforestation and habitat conservation of the remaining fragments, are necessary to sustain Whooping Motmot populations.

Habitat management measures should be put in place to counteract declining factors, such as forest fragmentation across its range. Legal protection should also be enhanced to prevent the bird from being hunted illegally.

Final Thoughts:

Whooping Motmots’ habitat preference requires an undisturbed rainforest ecosystem, but their continued decline suggests that their habitat is being threatened by various human-induced activities. Despite being primarily non-migratory, the bird exhibits movements within its range, often influenced by resource availability and habitat disruptions.

Conservation efforts aimed at addressing habitat degradation will help preserve the Whooping Motmot’s habitats and help promote the bird’s population recovery. As we work to prevent further habitat loss and fragmentation, we can ensure that those species like the Whooping Motmot that depend on this habitat remain with us indefinitely.

The Whooping Motmot, Momotus subrufescens, is a fascinating bird species known for its distinctive features and behaviors. In this article, we will explore the bird’s diet and foraging habits as well as its vocalization behavior.

Diet and Foraging:

The Whooping Motmot’s diet consists mainly of insects, fruits, and small lizards. The bird is a skilled hunter and spends most of its time in the understory of tropical forests searching for prey.

To do so, the bird remains motionless for long periods, watching for prey. When prey is located, the bird takes flight and swiftly captures the prey with its strong beak.

As the bird captures its insect prey, it batters them against a nearby branch to remove the legs and wings before swallowing the body whole. The bird’s diet varies, depending on the season and location.

For instance, the Whooping Motmot may shift from an insect diet to a more fruit-based one during periods when insect populations are low. Metabolism and Temperature Regulation:

The bird’s foraging behavior plays a significant role in maintaining its metabolism and regulating its body temperature.

The bird’s high-energy diet supplies the required energy levels for a high metabolism that supports its active lifestyle. The Whooping Motmot’s thermoregulation system is also adapted to help it maintain optimum body temperature for its metabolic processes.

One of the mechanisms used by the bird to regulate its body temperature is panting, which helps to release excess body heat during high-activity periods. Additionally, the birds have a unique ability to bring blood closer to their skin, which facilitates excess heat loss.

Vocal Behavior:

The Whooping Motmot has a diverse vocal range, producing various sounds and calls depending on the context. The bird’s most distinctive call is a periodic, melancholic “woo-woo-woo-woo,” which is used as a territorial call and played during the breeding season to attract mates.

The bird produces other calls such as a louder “kow, kow” to signal and communicate danger to nearby flock members. The bird also makes distinctive rattling sounds with its wings and tail during flight, giving a warning to other birds during contentious situations.

The bird’s vocal behavior plays a crucial role in species recognition, mate attraction, and social signaling. Male birds use their calls to attract mates while females produce a distinct call when laying eggs in their nests.


Given the widespread habitat destruction and climate change that threatens the bird’s natural habitats, the Whooping Motmot’s conservation is of utmost significance. The bird’s dependence on natural habitats, its specific foraging, and vocalization behaviors create vital ecosystems that support biodiversity.

Conservation measures such as afforestation and equitable management of natural reserves can help stabilize populations of Whooping Motmots and their natural environments. Public education programs, avian research, and the promotion of ecotourism will also help in conserving the bird species.

Final Thoughts:

The Whooping Motmot, with its diverse foraging and vocal behavior, is a fascinating species that provides an essential ecological balance in tropical forest ecosystems. Despite habitat destruction and other environmental threats, conservation measures aimed at protecting the bird’s habitats will enhance the species’ resilience and contribute to biodiversity conservation.

The bird’s unique thermoregulation and metabolic processes also provide insights into the unique adaptations required to support high-energy lifestyles in tropical environments. Listening to the Whooping Motmot’s calls resonating through tropical forests highlights how vocal behaviors and communication are essential to bird species’ ecological success.

The Whooping Motmot, Momotus subrufescens, is a medium-sized bird species that inhabits tropical forests in Central and South America. In this article, we will explore the bird’s behavior, focusing on locomotion, self-maintenance, agonistic and sexual behavior.

Additionally, we will examine how Whooping Motmots breed, and their demography and populations. Behavior:


The Whooping Motmot exhibits a hopping type of locomotion when moving on the ground.

The bird has short, strong legs that enable it to move quickly along forest floors or along branches. It also has a unique mode of moving through the air, characterized by a looping pattern or wave-like motion during flight.

Self Maintenance:

Like most bird species, the bird performs self-maintenance behaviors such as preening, stretching, and ruffling its feathers. Preening helps the bird to remove dirt and excess oil from its feathers, reducing the risk of infection.

The bird also engages in several stretching exercises, which helps keep their wings and legs supple. Agonistic Behavior:

In territorial disputes, the Whooping Motmot defends its territory by vocalizing, displaying, and interacting with rivals.

This bird species is known to engage in aggressive behavior and is not afraid to defend its territory or nesting site. Sexual Behavior:

During breeding season males call, displaying and presenting with food to attract females.

The courtship period is usually characterized by increased territorial displays and vocalizations by males. Breeding:

Female Whooping Motmots generally lay one to four eggs, with the male and female pair sharing incubation duties.

Incubation lasts for around 24 days, with new chicks hatching naked and blind. During the first week of life, the chicks are solely dependent on the parents for food, with both parents participating in feeding and brooding young.

Fledging period takes around 30-35 days. Demography and Populations:

The Whooping Motmot population is dispersed throughout Central and South America, occupying forested habitats along the Amazon Basin, the Guianas, and the

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