Rufous-tailed Jacamar Galbula ruficauda

  • Order: Galbuliformes
  • Family: Galbulidae
  • Polytypic: 6 subspecies
  • Authors: Noelle M. Chaine


Geographic Variation

Six subspecies of Rufous-tailed Jacamar currently are recognized:

Galbula ruficauda  ruficauda: Described by Cuvier in 1817, with a type locality of Guiana. Occurs in northern Colombia from the Cauca and Magdalena valleys east to northern Brazil and the Guianas, and on Trinidad and Tobago.

Characters as in the Detailed Description.

Galbula ruficauda melanogenia: Described by Sclater in 1852, with a type locality of Veragua. Occurs from southern Mexico south to western Panama, and from eastern Panama south to western Colombia and Ecuador.

Differs from nominate ruficauda by having four (not two) central rectrices green, and a black chin. Hybridizes with nominate ruficauda in northwestern Colombia.

Galbula ruficauda pallens: Described by Bangs in 1898, with a type locality of Santa Marta, Colombia. Occurs in northern Colombia, from the Río Sinú east to Guajira.

Similar to nominate ruficauda, but has paler underparts, especially in the female; green breast band narrower; and bill longer. Variation from ruficauda is clinal.

Galbula ruficauda brevirostris: Described by Cory in 1913, with a type locality of Encontrados, southwest of Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela. Distribution is limited to the head of the Maracaibo basin.

Similar to nominate ruficauda, but paler, and has a shorter bill. Variation from ruficauda is clinal.

Galbula ruficauda rufoviridis: Described by Cabanis in 1851, with a type locality of Brazil. Occurs in Brazil south of the Amazon, Paraguay, northern Bolivia (Beni), and northeastern Argentina.

Differs from nominate ruficauda by having four (not two) central rectrices green. Also, the outer webs of the tips of the outer rectrices green.

Galbula ruficauda heterogyna: Described by Todd in 1932, with a type locality of Palmarito, Río San Julián, Chiquitos, Bolivia. Occurs in eastern central Bolivia and in western Mato Grosso, Brazil.

Similar to rufoviridis, but paler. Variation with rufoviridis is clinal.

Descriptions of the subspecies are based on Haffer (1974) and Tobias et al. (2002). Ranges of the subspecies are based on Peters (1948).

Related Species

Lanyon and Zink (1987) reported that the genera within Galbulidae are separated by comparatively large genetic distances, based on an electrophoretic analysis of 20 protein-coding loci. The genera are likely from distinct, relatively old lineages and may have originated close in time. Galbula seems to be closer to Brachygalbula than to Jacamerops and Galbalcyrhynchus.

No definitive information is available on relationships between species within the genus. The Rufous-tailed Jacamar often is considered to form a superspecies with the Green-tailed Jacamar (Galbula galbula), White-chinned Jacamar (Galbula tombacea), Bluish-fronted Jacamar (Galbula cyanescens), and the Coppery-chested Jacamar (Galbula pastazae) (Haffer 1974, Tobias et al. 2002). Subspecies melanogenia formerly was recognized as a separate species, but hybridizes with nominate ruficauda in a limited area in northwestern Colombia. Haffer (1967: 37-42) described in detail hybridization between melanogenia and ruficauda in a very limited area in the drainages of four rivers (Chigorodó, Carepa, Currulao, and Mulatos) on the east side of the Golfo de Urabá, Antioquia, Colombia. Wetmore (1968: ), in less detail, reported specimens with signs of introgression between these two taxa farther to the northeast, from the Río Sinú valley in Cordoba, Colombia. Subspecies rufoviridis and heterogyna are separated from the four other subspecies of Rufous-tailed Jacamar by three different species (galbula, tombacea, and cyanescens), suggesting that rufoviridis and heterogyna could be a separate species; but these are retained in ruficauda due to their relatively small morphological differences from other subspecies of ruficauda (Tobias et al. 2002).

Recommended Citation

Chaine, N. M. (2010). Rufous-tailed Jacamar (Galbula ruficauda), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.