skip to content

Trogon melanocephalus

Black-headed Trogon

  • Order: Trogoniformes
  • Family: Trogonidae
  • Polytypic 2 Subspecies

Authors: Riehl, C

Trogon melanocephalus

Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico; 28 May 2009 © Jorge Alejandro González Terrazas

This beautiful yellow-bellied trogon is found in open forests from southern Mexico south and east through Central America to northwestern Costa Rica. It easily is  distinguished by its solid black upperparts, black tail with broad white tips to the outer rectrices, and dark eye with a pale blue eye ring. Males are glossy above, though the sheen is frequently difficult to see on birds foraging in the upper canopy. As Skutch (1948: 137) wrote, "One must see him resting low and in the sunshine to appreciate the full loveliness of the iridescent blue-green and golden-green plumage". Females are similar in coloration but duller overall, with upperparts of dark slaty gray instead of iridescent black. Black-headed Trogons frequently are detected by their call, a loud series of accelerating clucks that resembles the more nasal song of the Barred Antshrike (Thamnophilus doliatus).

Unlike many trogons, Black-headed Trogon prefers fairly open habitats, including plantations, secondary forest, gallery forest, and seasonally deciduous forests. Nesting cavities are carved into large arboreal termitaria occupied by termites (typically Nasutitermes) and consist of a long curved tunnel ending in a circular nesting chamber. Both members of the pair excavate the cavity and participate in incubation, nest defense, and food delivery to the nestlings. The diet is varied and includes both fruit and arthropods; nestlings are primarily fed large caterpillars and other large insects. The Black-headed Trogon is less solitary than many other trogons: small groups of up to 12 individuals frequently gather during the breeding season to call, forage, and investigate nesting sites together. This species is common in appropriate habitat throughout its range and its populations do not appear to be of conservation concern, partly due to its tolerance of pastureland, forest edges, and degraded habitats.

Recommended Citation

Riehl, C. 2012. Black-headed Trogon (Trogon melanocephalus), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: http://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/portal/species/overview?p_p_spp=%0A%09%09%09%09281816

This map is based on the maps available from the NatureServe InfoNatura website. The data for these maps are provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE.

  • Migration/Movement:Resident (nonmigratory)
  • Primary Habitat:Tropical deciduous forest
  • Foraging Strata:Midstory/Canopy
  • Foraging Behavior:Sally
  • Diet:Omnivorous
  • Sociality:Solitary/Pairs
  • Mating System:Monogamy
  • Nest Form:Cavity
  • Clutch: 2 - 3
  • IUCN Status:Least Concern