Broad-billed Motmot Electron platyrhynchum




Broad-billed Motmot is most often found in middle layers of vegetation in humid forest habitats. They are sit-and-wait predators, perching quietly on branches before darting out to capture prey items as they pass by below. Prey may either be taken from the air or from the surface of vegetation. They will often trail army ant swarms in order to capture and consume fleeing insects. Although Skutch does not give a complete description of foraging time allotment, he observed birds continuing to forage after dark in the evening, and notes that young in a nest were fed (indicating prior foraging) frequently during daylight hours, suggesting that foraging is not restricted to one particular time during the day. Motmots are known to use tail wagging as a means of conveying signals to conspecifics and predators (Murphy 2007a), though the signaling function of tails remains unstudied in Broad-billed Motmots.


Broad-billed Motmots likely defend all-purpose territories, though little specific information exists on patterns of territoriality in Broad-billed Motmot, and no studies to date have examined home range size in this species. Skutch suggested that the “cwaa cwaa” vocalization may function in territory maintenance, particularly when given after the morning hours. Other motmot species are quite territorial and responsive to conspecific playback (Murphy, Rohwer, & Scholes 2010), bolstering assumptions that Broad-billed Motmot exhibits similar behavior.

Sexual Behavior

Broad-billed Motmot is socially monogamous with biparental care. The single courtship event narrated by Skutch begins with duetting during foraging, followed by the male withholding a captured prey item from the female, and ends with the female seemingly becoming frustrated and leaving. Given the small sample size involved in Skutch’s accout, little can be said as to whether this progression of behaviors is representative of Broad-billed Motmot courtship. Although information on the timing of the mating season is lacking in most of this species’ range, courtship at Barro Colorado Island, Panama, has been observed in January, coinciding with the beginning of the dry season there (Wieder & Wright 1995).

Social and interspecific behavior

Broad-billed Motmot is generally solitary outside of the breeding season. To date, no concentrated studies have been conducted to catalogue interspecific interactions between this species and other motmots. However, this species is known to trail army ant swarms, and may compete with obligate ant-swarm followers for food.


No reports of predation on Broad-billed Motmot.

Recommended Citation

Broad-billed Motmot (Electron platyrhynchum), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: