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Lesson's Motmot Momotus lessonii


Lesson's Motmot is one of the most common and widespread species of motmot in Central America, with a distribution that extends from southern Mexico south to central Panama. Its distribution is sandwiched in between two similar, closely related species. To the north, in northeastern Mexico, Lesson's is replaced by Blue-capped Motmot (Momotus coeruliceps), which has a completely turquoise blue crown. Very little is known about the region where these two species replace each other; some apparent hybrids have been reported, but the incidence of hybridization has not been documented. At the other end of its range, Lesson's Motmot is replaced in central Panama by Whooping Motmot (M. subrufescens). In this region, the two species can be distinguished by the color of the underparts (greener in Lesson's, more tawny in Whooping) and by song (double noted in Lesson's, and single noted in Whooping). Like other species of motmots, birds often perch on a favored branch, where they cock their long tail back and forth like a clock pendulum and occasionally sally after a flying insect. The natural history of Lesson's Motmot is similar in many respects to several other allopatric species of motmots in the "Blue-crowned Motmot" complex (Blue-capped, Lesson's, Whooping, Trinidad M. bahamensis, Amazonian M. momota, and Andean M. aequatorialis), all of which formerly were classified as a single, highly variable species.

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© David L. Ross, Jr.

  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding

Recommended Citation

Lesson's Motmot (Momotus lessonii), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: