skip to content

Trogon rufus

Black-throated Trogon

  • Order: Trogoniformes
  • Family: Trogonidae
  • Polytypic 6 Subspecies

Authors: Stelow, Cassie



The Black-throated Trogon is one of the smaller members of Trogonidae. In both sexes the lower breast and the belly are yellow, and the underside of the tail is barred black and white. The male has a green head, upper breast, and back, with a prominent bluish eyering. The areas colored green in the male are brown in the female; the female also has a bluish white area of bare skin just before and after the eye.

Similar Species

The Black-throated Trogon overlaps geographically with several other species of yellow-bellied trogon, including the Gartered Trogon (Trogon caligatus), from Honduras south to western Ecuador; the Amazonian Trogon (Trogon ramonianus), in much of the Amazon basin; and the Guianan Trogon (Trogon violaceus), in northeastern South America. Key differences include the colors of the upperparts and of the eyering. Males of the three other species have violet-blue upperparts and a yellow eyering; male Black-throated Trogons have green upperparts and a blue eyering. Female Black-throated Trogons are the only yellow-bellied trogons with brown upperparts.


The typical song of the Black-throated Trogon is described as "2-5 clear, mellow, descending whistles in a deliberate series, the later notes lower in pitch" (Costa Rica; Stiles and Skutch 1989); "two to four well separated cow notes" (Panama; Ridgely and Gwynne 1989); and "a slow, evenly spaced ser[ies] of ca 2-4 cuk or cuh notes, at rate of 1/sec or slower" (Venezuela; Hilty 2003).

Also gives a churring call, similar to other trogons.

Nonvocal Sounds

None reported.

Detailed Description (appearance)

The following description is based on Wetmore (1968); see also Ridgway (1911):

Adult, male: Crown, back, lesser wing coverts, rump, and upper breast metallic green. Forehead, sides of head, and throat black. Uppertail coverts somewhat bluish. Central rectrices bluish green to greenish blue, broadly tipped with black. Two adjacent pairs of rectrices similar on the outer web; inner web black. Three outer pairs of rectrices black, broadly tipped with white; the distal portions of the inner webs, and the outer webs, broadly barred with white. Primaries, primary coverts and inner webs of secondaries black, the longer primaries edged with white. Outer webs of secondaries, and the greater and middle wingcoverts black, finely vermiculated and barred with white. White band across the upper breast, below the metallic green. Lower breast and belly yellow.

Adult, female: Upperparts generally brown, usually darker on the crown and paler on the rump and uppertail coverts. Sides of the head like the crown. Central rectrices rufous-brown to chestnut; indistinct cinnamon-buff subterminal band,  and a narrow black terminal band. Two adjacent pairs black, both outer and inner webs edged with rufous-brown to chestnut. Three outer pairs of rectrices black, tipped and heavily barred with white. Primaries and inner webs of secondaries fuscous-black, outer webs of primaries narrowly edged with white. Outer webs of secondaries, and greater and middle coverts, pale brown, with fine dusky vermiculations. Lesser wingcoverts black, tipped with brown. Throat and upper breast brown, usually paler than the back. White band across the upper breast, below the brown. Lower breast and belly yellow

Bare Parts

Iris: dark brown. Narrow eyering of male light blue; orbital ring of female white.

Bill: in male, mostly yellow or yellow-green; in female, black or blackish, with base (of both maxilla and mandible) yellow-green

Tarsi and toes: bluish gray

Data from Wetmore (1968)


Total length: 23 cm (Stiles and Skutch 1989), 24 cm (Hilty 2003), 23.5-26 mm (Wetmore 1968)


Linear measurements (mm) of Trogon rufus (Wetmore 1968)
   wing tail tarsus culmen from base
 male mean  108.9 129.0  13.8  17.6
  range (n=18) 102.9-113.5 123.8-134.9  13.1-14.7  16.4-18.7
 female mean  110.1  131.6  13.5   17.3
  range (n=15)  104.0-114.8  126.7-137.8  13.1-14.4  16.3-18.5


Mass: males, mean 51.9 g (range 48-56 g, n=4); females, mean 55 g (range 52-57 g, n=3). Data from Suriname (Haverschmidt and Mees 1994). In southern Brazil, 1 male 57 g; 2 females, 54, 58 g (Belton 1984).


No information available - Contribute

Geographic Variation

Six subspecies are recognized:

tenellus Cabanis 1862; type locality Costa Rica

Occurs from Honduras south to northwestern Colombia

cupreicauda (Chapman 1914); type locality Bagado, Chocó, Colombia

Occurs in western Colombia and western Ecuador

rufus Gmelin 1788; type locality Cayenne

Occurs in northeastern South America, from eastern Venezuela, the Guianas, and northeastern Brazil

sulphureus Spix 1824; type locality Tabatinga, Rio Solimoes, Brazil

Occurs in the western Amazon Basin

amazonicus Todd 1943; type locality Villa Braga, Rio Tapajóz, Brazil

Occurs in the eastern Amazon Basin

chrysochloros Pelzeln; type locality Ypanema, São Paulo

Occurs in south central Brazil and eastern Brazil Paraguay, and northeastern Argentina


The phylogenetic relationships of trogons were investigated by Espinosa de los Monteros (1998), based on DNA sequence data for two mitochondrial genes (cytochrome b and 12S ribosomal RNA), and by Moyle (2005), using DNA sequence data from both nuclear ((RAG-1) and mitochondrial (ND2) genes. Both Espinosa de los Monteros (1998) and Moyle (2005) recovered a clade of trogons that includes Black-throated Trogon (Trogon rufus), Elegant Trogon (Trogon elegans), Mountain Trogon (Trogon mexicanus), Collared Trogon (Trogon collaris), and Masked Trogon (Trogon personatus). Espinosa de los Monteros (1998) identified elegans and rufus as sister taxa. Moyle (2005), on the other hand, identified rufus as basal to all other members of this clade, and elegans as basal to all but rufus.

Recommended Citation

Stelow, Cassie. 2011. Black-throated Trogon (Trogon rufus), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: