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Bucconidae - Puffbirds

Puffbird
Chaco Puffbird Nystalus striatipectus ©Clayton Burne Website

The Bucconidae or Puffbirds and their relatives are a near passerine family of tropical tree-dwelling insectivorous birds that are found from South America up to Mexico. Together with their closest relatives, the jacamars, they form a divergent lineage within the order Piciformes, though the two families are sometimes elevated to a separate order Galbuliformes. Lacking the iridescent colours of the jacamars, puffbirds are mainly brown, rufous or grey, with large heads, large eyes, and flattened bills with a hooked tip. Their loose, abundant plumage and short tails makes them look stout and puffy, giving rise to the English name of the family. The species range in size from the Rufous-capped Nunlet, at 13cm and 14g, to the White-necked Puffbird, at up to 29cm and 106g.

Puffbirds are found from Mexico to southern Brazil, with the greatest variety of species found in the Amazon Basin. They live in forested or wooded habitats, including lowland, foothills, and open woodland. The White-faced Nunbird is the only member of this species known to live in highlands.The Swallow-winged Puffbird also lives in more open country. No species of puffbirds have been recorded of moving any significant distance beyond its home territory.

Due to their secretive nature, puffbirds vocalise very rarely, most often at dawn and dusk. The main vocalisations consists of repeated and high-pitched whistles. The nunbirds are the most vocal of the family; they have a wide repertoire of calls and often give very loud shouts. They are by nature arboreal. Mostly secretive, they are found singly or in small family groups. Species of the genus Monasa, known as nunbirds, are more gregarious and found in flocks.

Puffbirds are sit-and-wait hunters, perching unmoving for long periods, while watching for insect prey. As well as arthropods, they may eat small lizards and plant material. Arthropod exoskeletons are regurgitated as pellets. The Swallow-winged Puffbird is the only member in the family that is known to capture insects from open perches.

The breeding behaviour of puffbirds is not well known. Nests are burrows in dirt, rotten wood or termite mounds. They are known to lay clutches of two or three eggs. The eggs are round, small, and white. The incubation period is around 15 days, and performed by both parents. Born blind and naked, the young can crawl to the entrance of the nest burrow at one or two days of age. There, their mother feeds them partly chewed insects. They fledge at around 20 to 21 days.

According to the IOC there are 38 extant species of Puffbirds, Nunbirds and allies in the family Bucconidae; they are:

White-necked Puffbird Notharchus hyperrhynchus
Guianan Puffbird Notharchus macrorhynchos
Buff-bellied Puffbird Notharchus swainsoni
Black-breasted Puffbird Notharchus pectoralis
Brown-banded Puffbird Notharchus ordii
Pied Puffbird Notharchus tectus

Chestnut-capped Puffbird Bucco macrodactylus
Spotted Puffbird Bucco tamatia
Sooty-capped Puffbird Bucco noanamae
Collared Puffbird Bucco capensis

Barred Puffbird Nystalus radiatus
White-eared Puffbird Nystalus chacuru
Eastern Striolated Puffbird Nystalus striolatus
Western Striolated Puffbird Nystalus obamai
Caatinga Puffbird Nystalus maculatus
Chaco Puffbird Nystalus striatipectus

Russet-throated Puffbird Hypnelus ruficollis
Two-banded Puffbird Hypnelus bicinctus

Crescent-chested Puffbird Malacoptila striata
White-chested Puffbird Malacoptila fusca
Semicollared Puffbird Malacoptila semicincta
Black-streaked Puffbird Malacoptila fulvogularis
Rufous-necked Puffbird Malacoptila rufa
White-whiskered Puffbird Malacoptila panamensis
Moustached Puffbird Malacoptila mystacalis

Lanceolated Monklet Micromonacha lanceolata

Rusty-breasted Nunlet Nonnula rubecula
Fulvous-chinned Nunlet Nonnula sclateri
Brown Nunlet Nonnula brunnea
Grey-cheeked Nunlet Nonnula frontalis
Rufous-capped Nunlet Nonnula ruficapilla
Chestnut-headed Nunlet Nonnula amaurocephala

White-faced Nunbird Hapaloptila castanea

Black Nunbird Monasa atra
Black-fronted Nunbird Monasa nigrifrons
White-fronted Nunbird Monasa morphoeus
Yellow-billed Nunbird Monasa flavirostris

Swallow-winged Puffbird Chelidoptera tenebrosa

Family Links

Puffbirds Bucconidae

IBC Family Account

Small to medium-sized perching birds with large head, short rounded wings, stocky body, small feet, and narrow tail; plumage soft, and drab to contrasting…

Puffbirds Bucconidae

Family Account

The puffbirds and their relatives in the near passerine family Bucconidae are tropical tree-dwelling insectivorous birds that are found from South America up to Mexico. Together with their closest relatives, the jacamars, they form a divergent lineage within the order Piciformes, though the two families are sometimes elevated to a separate order Galbuliformes.

Puffbirds Bucconidae

HBW Family Account

Annotated species list

Species Links

White-whiskered Puffbird Malacoptila panamensis

Species Account

The white-whiskered puffbird (Malacoptila panamensis) is a resident breeding bird species from southeastern Mexico to central Ecuador. It is sometimes known as the white-whiskered softwing.

White-necked Puffbird Notharchus macrorhynchos

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Black Nunbird Monasa atra

BirdLife Species Account

Black Nunbird Monasa atra

Species Account

The black nunbird (Monasa atra) is a species of bird in the family Bucconidae, the puffbirds. It is found in north-central South America in the Guianas of Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana including the Guiana Shield; also eastern and southeastern Venezuela in the eastern Orinoco River Basin, and the Amazon Basin of northeast Brazil in the north-central and northeast. It is not found south of the Amazon River, and its western limit bordering southeast Venezuela is the Rio Negro.

Buff-bellied Puffbird Notharchus swainsoni

BirdLife Species Account

Chestnut-capped Puffbird Bucco macrodactylus

Species Account

The chestnut-capped puffbird (Bucco macrodactylus) is a species of bird in the family Bucconidae, the puffbirds.

Crescent-chested Puffbird Malacoptila striata

BirdLife Species Account

Crescent-chested Puffbird Malacoptila striata

Species Account

The crescent-chested puffbird (Malacoptila striata) is a species of bird in the family Bucconidae, the puffbirds. It is endemic to Brazil.

Pied Puffbird Notharchus tectus

Species Account

The pied puffbird (Notharchus tectus) is a species of puffbird in the family Bucconidae. It is found in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela.

Spot-backed Puffbird Nystalus maculates

Species Account

The spot-backed puffbird (Nystalus maculatus) is a species of bird in the family Bucconidae, the puffbirds. It is found in eastern Brazil, eastern Bolivia, Paraguay and northern Argentina.

Spotted Puffbird Bucco tamatia

Species Account

The spotted puffbird (Bucco tamatia) is a species of puffbird in the family Bucconidae. It is found in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela. Its natural habitats are subtropical and tropical swamps and heavily degraded former forest.

Eastern Striolated Puffbird Nystalus striolatus

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Bucco striolatus Pelzeln, 1856, Dourado and Engenho do Capitão Gama, Rio Guaporé, Mato Grosso, Brazil. Three subspecies recognized.

Swallow-winged Chelidoptera tenebrosa

BirdLife Species Account

Swallow-winged Chelidoptera tenebrosa

Species Account

The swallow-winged puffbird (Chelidoptera tenebrosa) is a species of bird in the family Bucconidae, the puffbirds. It is also called the swallow-wing. It is the only species in the genus Chelidoptera.

White-fronted Nunbird Monasa morphoeus

BirdLife Species Account

Black Nunbird Monasa atra

Cornell Species Account

This species forms a superspecies with the Black-fronted Nunbird (Monasa nigrifrons) and the White-fronted Nunbird (Monasa morphoeus), both of which occur south and west of the present species’ range over the Guiana Shield.

Black Nunbird Monasa atra

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Cuculus ater Boddaert, 1783, Cayenne. Thought to be closely related to M. nigrifrons and M. morphoeus. Monotypic.

Black Nunbird Monasa atra

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Buff-bellied Puffbird Notharchus swainsoni

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Bucco swainsoni G. R. Gray, 1846, Brazil. Closely related to N. hyperrhynchus and N. macrorhynchos (see above), and usually regarded as conspecific, but differs from both in plumage and, especially, in smaller size (smaller head and bill) and several osteological details. Monotypic.

Buff-bellied Puffbird Notharchus swainsoni

Cornell Species Account

An Atlantic Forest endemic, which is found from southeast Brazil to eastern Paraguay and extreme northeast Argentina, the Buff-bellied Puffbird was formerly considered conspecific with the White-necked Puffbird (Notharchus hyperrhynchus) and the Guianan Puffbird (Notharchus macrorhynchos).

Buff-bellied Puffbird Notharchus swainsoni

Species Account

The buff-bellied puffbird (Notharchus swainsoni) is a species of puffbird in the family Bucconidae.

Buff-bellied Puffbird Notharchus swainsoni

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Chestnut-capped Puffbird Bucco macrodactylus

Cornell Species Account

The Chestnut-capped Puffbird is a relatively small member of the genus Bucco, from which the family Bucconidae is named. Its small size, bright chestnut cap and black mask and breast band distinguish it from all other puffbirds.

Chestnut-capped Puffbird Bucco macrodactylus

BirdLife Species Account

Chestnut-capped Puffbird Bucco macrodactylus

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Cyphos macrodactylus Spix, 1824, Fonte Boa, Amazonas, Brazil. Birds from R Caura region (NW Bolívar to E Amazonas) of S Venezuela often treated as geographical race, caurensis, but probably inseparable from other populations. Monotypic.

Chestnut-capped Puffbird Bucco macrodactylus

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Chaco Puffbird Nystalus striatipectus

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Chaco Puffbird Nystalus striatipectus

Species Account

Crescent-chested Puffbird Malacoptila striata

IUCN Species Status

Crescent-chested Puffbird Malacoptila striata

Cornell Species Account

The Crescent-chested Puffbird is in many ways a typical member of the genus Malacoptila, being predominantly brown, appearing extensively streaked over the head and the upperparts, with a white upper-breast crescent, bordered below by black.

Crescent-chested Puffbird Malacoptila striata

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Bucco striatus Spix, 1824, Rio de Janeiro and Bahia, Brazil. Hitherto considered conspecific with M. minor. Monotypic.

Crescent-chested Puffbird Malacoptila striata

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

White-necked Puffbird Notharchus hyperrhynchus

Species Account

The white-necked puffbird (Notharchus hyperrhynchus) is a species of puffbird in the family Bucconidae.

White-necked Puffbird Notharchus hyperrhynchus

BirdLife Species Account

White-necked Puffbird Notharchus hyperrhynchus

IUCN Species Status

White-necked Puffbird Notharchus hyperrhynchus

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Bucco hyperrhynchus P. L. Sclater, 1856, upper Amazon. Two subspecies currently recognized.

White-necked Puffbird Notharchus hyperrhynchus

Cornell Species Account

The White-necked Puffbird is one of the largest, and most widespread members of the puffbird family, and frequents the forest canopy from southern Mexico south through Amazonia.

Black-breasted Puffbird Notharchus pectoralis

Species Account

The black-breasted puffbird (Notharchus pectoralis) is a species of puffbird in the family Bucconidae. It is found in Colombia, Ecuador, and Panama. Its natural habitats are subtropical and tropical moist lowland forests and heavily degraded former forest.

Black-breasted Puffbird Notharchus pectoralis

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Bucco pectoralis G. R. Gray, 1846, no locality. Considered closely related to N. ordii. Monotypic.

Black-breasted Puffbird Notharchus pectoralis

Cornell Species Account

The Black-breasted Puffbird occurs from Panama’s Canal Zone in the north, to northwest Ecuador in the south. It is a relatively large, strikingly plumaged, but entirely black-and-white puffbird.

Black-breasted Puffbird Notharchus pectoralis

BirdLife Species Account

Black-breasted Puffbird Notharchus pectoralis

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Pied Puffbird Notharchus tectus

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Bucco tectus Boddaert, 1783, Cayenne. Sometimes placed in genus Bucco. Usually considered conspecific with N. subtectus. Two subspecies recognized.

Pied Puffbird Notharchus tectus

Cornell Species Account

The Pied Puffbird has a widespread but rather discontinuous distribution, from the Caribbean slope of Costa Rica to northwest Ecuador (which population is sometimes treated specifically), then in the Guianas across northern Amazonia to eastern Peru, and in eastern Bolivia and western Brazil, as well as in northeast Brazil around the mouth of the Amazon and southwards.

Pied Puffbird Notharchus tectus

BirdLife Species Account

Pied Puffbird Notharchus tectus

IUCN Species Status

Pied Puffbird Notharchus tectus

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Spot-backed Puffbird Nystalus maculates

BirdLife Species Account

Spot-backed Puffbird Nystalus maculates

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Alcedo maculata J. F. Gmelin, 1788, Brazil = Ceará. Two subspecies currently recognized.

Spot-backed Puffbird Nystalus maculates

Cornell Species Account

The Spot-backed Puffbird is a resident of deciduous woodland and savanna from Northeastern Brazil to Northwest Argentina.

Spot-backed Puffbird Nystalus maculates

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Spotted Puffbird Bucco tamatia

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Bucco Tamatia J. F. Gmelin, 1788, Cayenne and Brazil. Closely related to N. noanamae. Several other races proposed include inexpectatus (NC Brazil), punctuliger (C Brazil) and interior (SW Brazil), but these apparently represent inconstant, intergrading populations. Race previously hypnaleus sometimes misspelt hypneleus. Three subspecies currently recognized.

Spotted Puffbird Bucco tamatia

Cornell Species Account

The Spotted Puffbird is perhaps the fanciest member of the genus Bucco within the puffbird family. Most striking, and unique in the puffbirds, is the combination of a chestnut cap, black neck mark, and the white underparts heavily spotted black.

Spotted Puffbird Bucco tamatia

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Eastern Striolated Puffbird Nystalus striolatus

BirdLife Species Account

Eastern Striolated Puffbird Nystalus striolatus

Species Account

The eastern striolated puffbird (Nystalus striolatus) was considered conspecific with the western striolated puffbird (Nystalus obamai)

Eastern Striolated Puffbird Nystalus striolatus

Cornell Species Account

The Striolated Puffbird is a brownish puffbird of forest edges and openings. It has a unique combination of barred upperparts and streaked underparts, as well as a heavy, largely pale bill. Its whistled song has a distinctive pattern, two short notes followed by a longer note, then an even longer note on a lower pitch - "whip-whip-wheee, wheeeee".

Eastern Striolated Puffbird Nystalus striolatus

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Swallow-winged Chelidoptera tenebrosa

Cornell Species Account

Also known simply as the Swallow-wing, this species is the sole species of Chelidoptera, and is widespread across the lowlands (generally below 1000 m) of the northern two-thirds of South America east of the Andes, including in the northern Atlantic Forest biome.

Swallow-winged Chelidoptera tenebrosa

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Cuculus tenebrosus Pallas, 1782, Suriname. Three subspecies recognized.

Swallow-winged Chelidoptera tenebrosa

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

White-fronted Nunbird Monasa morphoeus

Species Account

The white-fronted nunbird (Monasa morphoeus) is a species of near passerine bird in the puffbird family (Bucconidae). It is found in the tropical Americas.

White-fronted Nunbird Monasa morphoeus

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Bucco Morphoeus Hahn and Küster, 1823, Brazil. Thought to be closely related to M. atra and M. nigrifrons. Nominate race, grandior and fidelis have been considered three distinct species by some authors. Birds from NE Bolivia sometimes separated as race boliviana, but apparently indistinguishable from peruana. Seven subspecies currently recognized.

White-fronted Nunbird Monasa morphoeus

Cornell Species Account

White-fronted Nunbird is a fairly uncommon resident in the midstory and subcanopy of terre firme forest. The closely related Black-fronted Nunbird lacks the white face and is found in varzea forest rather than terre firme. Although their song is similar to Black-fronted, it is generally faster and higher; they also tend to be less vocal overall.

White-fronted Nunbird Monasa morphoeus

Species List

Sound archive and distribution map.

White-whiskered Puffbird Malacoptila panamensis

BirdLife Species Account

White-whiskered Puffbird Malacoptila panamensis

Cornell Species Account

The White-whiskered Puffbird inhabits humid evergreen forests and shady forest edges from southeastern Mexico to Ecuador.

White-whiskered Puffbird Malacoptila panamensis

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Malacoptila panamensis Lafresnaye, 1847, Panama. Four subspecies currently recognized.

White-whiskered Puffbird Malacoptila panamensis

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 35