SPOTLIGHT: Blue-crowned Motmot by any other name…

The Blue-crowned Motmot, is now the Blue-diademed Motmot on the IOC list.

Formerly called the Blue-crowned Motmot, is now the Blue-diademed Motmot on the IOC list.


During my first visit to Central America, in 1993, I was introduced to the Blue-crowned Motmot (Momotus momota). WOW! What an fascinating bird… it’s long, racquet-like tail twitching from side to side like a clock, the bright, iridescent blue crown (hence the name), the serrated edge of the upper bill, the black mask and the piercing red-eye all kept me intrigued.

Over the years and many sightings later, the Blue-crowned Motmot has stayed at the top of my ‘BPD’ (Better Photo Desired) list. Although I have good shots — many of them are on film — digital photography keeps getting better and better, and I always want to improve upon that shot that say’s “this is a Blue-crowned Motmot.”

Wait a minute… according to the latest list from the IOC (International Ornithological Committee), there is no such bird called a Blue-crowned Motmot anymore! A few years ago, the powers that be accepted ornithological research that says the Blue-crowned Motmot is really five separate species!

The Blue-crowned Motmot found from southern Mexico through Central America into western Panama, is now to be called the Blue-diademed Motmot (Momotus lessonii). This new name doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, does it? ‘Diadem’ means ‘crown’ but is much more time consuming to say.

So for all of you who have traveled with us in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama (central and western), change your life lists and the captions on your photos. However, for those who have been to Panama’s Darien Province with us (or who are joining us in January 2015), there is a new motmot in town!

The Whooping Motmot (Momotus subrufescens) is found from Panama’s Darien Province, east through northern Colombia and into northern Venezuela, and south through western Ecuador.

Some changes are difficult to embrace. Whooping Motmot at least sounds like the call of the motmot. However, remembering to say ‘diademed’ instead of ‘crowned’ will, for me, be a challenge.

Oh, wait a second… the IOC is the only listing governance that has accepted these new names. The AOU (American Ornithological Union) and the Clements 6th Edition are still calling all five birds, Blue-crowned Motmot. Hmmm… so I should just choose to use one of these other lists? Why are there so many different lists anyway? I guess that is a question for another day.

By whatever name we call them, Blue-crowned, Blue-diademed, Whooping, Highland (Andes) or Amazon Motmot, they will always be a favorite on all of our birding tours and photo workshops to these fantastic destinations!

— Kevin Loughlin / Owner of Wildside Nature Tours



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