Distribution in the Americas
Information on distribution is from Snow (2001):
The northern subspecies, Baryphthengus martii semirufus, occurs from eastern Honduras south through eastern Nicaragua, the Caribbean slope of Costa Rica and Panama, and the southwestern Pacific slope of Panama south to northwestern Colombia and western Ecuador west of the Andes.
The southern subspecies, Baryphthengus martii martii, occurs in the western Amazon Basin from southeastern Colombia south to northern Bolivia and east to the Rio Tapajos in Brazil.
The Rufous Motmot occurs in the lowlands, up to 1250 m in Costa Rica (Slud 1964, Stiles and Skutch 1989), 1400 m in southern Panama and Ecuador (Stiles and Skutch 1989, Ridgely and Greenfield 2001), and to 1300 m (locally to 1600 m) in Peru (Schulenberg et al. 2007).
Distribution outside the Americas
Endemic to Central and South America.
The Rufous Motmot prefers tall, primary lowland evergreen humid forest or secondary forest with taller emergent trees, especially along water courses (Slud 1964, Stiles and Skutch 1989, Ridgely and Greenfield 2001, Schulenberg et al. 2007). Open secondary forest and plantations are also used, especially if near larger patches of heavier forest (Skutch 1983). It avoids dense secondary growth or vine-infested woodlands where the "Blue-crowned Motmot" (now Blue-crowned Motmot Momotus coeruliceps, Whooping Motmot Momotus subrufescens and Amazonian Motmot Momotus momota) typically is more common (Willis 1981). Pearson (1972) and O'Neill and Pearson (1974) reported Rufous Motmots preferring the middle strata of tall, primary forest and the higher subcanopy of secondary forests of shorter stature in northeastern Ecuador and eastern Peru, respectively.
No fossils reported of this species. A motmot-like Oligocene fossil from Switzerland, Protornis, is suggestive of an Old World origin for the family (Snow 2001).