Northern Emerald-Toucanet Aulacorhynchus prasinus

  • Order: Piciformes
  • Family: Ramphastidae
  • Polytypic: 7 subspecies
  • Authors: Thomas S. Schulenberg, A. M. Contreras-González, Claudia I. Rodríguez-Flores, Carlos A. Soberanes-González, Marîa del Coro Arizmendi, and Kolten Powell


Geographic Variation

Currently 8 subspecies of Northern Emerald-Toucanet are recognized, which primarily vary in the color of the throat and of the bill. These subspecies can be divided into up to 4 groups (which sometimes are recognized as separate species; see also Related Species). The following short descriptions are based on Haffer (1974), Short and Horne (2001), and Winker (2016), except where otherwise noted:

"Emerald" group, composed of 4 subspecies; collectively characterized by white or whitish throat and sides of the face below the eye, and by the maxilla being extensively yellow, except for a black patch at the nares:

prasinus, described as Pteroglossus prasinus Gould 1834; type locality "México" = Valley Real

Southeastern Mexico in Veracruz, San Luis Potosí, Hidalgo and Oaxaca; see Detailed Description.

warneri, described as Aulacorhynchus prasinus warneri Winker 2000; type locality Volcán San Martín, Sierra de Los Tuxtlas, Veracruz, Mexico

Similar to nominate prasinus, but the throat has a yellowish wash, and there is a "moderately bright yellowish band" on the auriculars (Winker 2000). Restricted to the Tuxtlas.

virescens, described as Aulacorhynchus prasinus virescens Ridgway in 1912; type locality Chaniguas, Honduras

southeastern Mexico, northern Guatemala, southeastern Mexico in Quintana Roo, Belize, Honduras, and northern Nicaragua

Similar to nominate prasinus, but the rear of the auriculars and throat are yellower; has less of a blue tint on the breast; yellower flanks and sides; darker chestnut tips to the rectrices; and is slightly smaller.

volcanius, as Aulacorhynchus prasinus volcanius Dickey and van Rossem 1930; type locality Volcán San Miguel, El Salvador

Volcán San Miguel, eastern El Salvador.

Very similar to other members of the Emerald group, but paler, and slightly smaller, although with a bill as long or longer than in adjacent populations.

"Wagler's" group, composed of a single subspecies. The bill is mostly black, with a broad yellow stripe along the culmen, and a prominent vertical orangey brown stripe at the base. The forecrown is paler, yellowish white. grading into an olive crown and yellower. Throat and sides of the face below the eye white (as in the Emerald group) but the rear margin is bluer.

wagleri, described as Pteroglossus wagleri Sturm and Sturm 1841; no type locality specified

southwestern Mexico in Guerrero and western Oaxaca.

"Blue-throated" group, composed of 2 subspecies. The throat and lower sides of the face are deep blue. The bill is mostly black, with a broad yellow stripe along the culmen; base of the culmen is chestnut.

maxillaris, described as Aulacororhynchus cæruleigularis maxillaris Griscom 1924; type locality Guaybo, Costa Rica

Costa Rica and western Panama (Chiriquí). This subspecies has been considered as a synonym of caeruleogularis (Short and Horne 2001).

caeruleogularis, described as Aulacorhamphus cæruleigularis Gould 1854; type locality Veragua; restricted to Cerro Flores, eastern Chiriquí, Panama by Griscom 1924

Panama in eastern Chiriquí and Veraguas

"Violet-throated" group, composed of a single subspecies. Similar to the "Blue-throated" group (throat and lower sides of the face deep blue; bill mostly black, with a broad yellow stripe along the culmen), but the crown and upper back are greener (less bronzy). Base of the culmen is black (not chestnut).

cognatus, described as Aulacorhamphus cæruleigularis cognatus Nelson 1912; type locality Mt. Pirre, Darién, Panama

easternmost Panama (Darién), including Cerro Tacarcuna, on the Panama/Colombia border

Related Species

Phylogenetic analysis of DNA sequence data, from both mitochondrial and nuclear genes, indicates that the Aulacorhynchus prasinus complex sensu lato (Aulacorhynchus prasinus and Aulacorhynchus albivitta Southern Emerald-Toucanet) is sister to all other members of Aulacorhynchus (Bonaccorso et al. 2011).

The Aulacorhynchus prasinus complex consists of ca 15 taxa, distributed from Mexico south to Bolivia. The number of species recognized among these 15 taxa varies from one (Peters 1948, Haffer 1974, Short and Horne 2001) or two (Chesser et al. 2017) to five (Winker 2016), six (del Hoyo and Collar 2014), or eight (Navarro et al. 2001, Puebla-Olivares et al. 2008, Bonaccorso et al. 2011). All authors are in broad agreement that the 15 taxa in this complex can be arranged into seven or eight major groups (see Geographic Variation for prasinus and albivitta). The wide disparity stems in part from the adoption of differing species concepts, with adherents of a biological species concept recognizing few species than do those who accept a phylogenetic or evolutionary species concept. In any event, the major groups in the prasinus complex sensu lato usually are allopatric, so direct tests of reproductive isolation are not possible (but note that two groups in Aulacorhynchus albivitta hybridize where they meet in northern Peru; Haffer 1974).

Recommended Citation

Schulenberg, T. S., A. M. Contreras-González, C. I. Rodríguez-Flores, C. A. Soberanes-González, M. d. C. Arizmendi, and K. Powell (2017). Northern Emerald-Toucanet (Aulacorhynchus prasinus), version 2.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.