Family Guans, Chachalacas, Curassows (Cracidae)

Least Concern

Little Chachalaca (Ortalis motmot)


French: Ortalide motmot German: Motmotguan Spanish: Chachalaca motmot
Other common names: Variable Chachalaca, Rufous-headed Chachalaca (ruficeps)

Phasianus Motmot


, 1766,

Brazil and Guiana = Cayenne


Has been considered conspecific with O. guttata (and forms traditionally lumped with it) and O. superciliaris, and probably also close to O. leucogastra. Race ruficeps recently considered a full species by some authors, on basis of being slightly smaller and darker, but material in AMNH shows some nominate with dark rufous head and several from Venezuela seemingly as small as ruficeps. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • O. m. motmot (Linnaeus, 1766) – S & E Venezuela, the Guianas and N Brazil N of lower R Amazon (E of R Negro); speculated to occur in neighbouring SE Colombia.
  • O. m. ruficeps (Wagler, 1830) – NC Brazil S of R Amazon between R Tapajós (Pará) and R Araguaia (Tocantins).
  • Descriptive notes

    43–54 cm; 345–620 g. Reddish-chestnut head like O. garrula and O. erythroptera, contrasting with mainly grey underparts, but dark brown, not... read more


    Typical of all Ortalis: song (given by duetting pair during breeding season, but by groups... read more


    Patches of forest with dense undergrowth along rivers or in clearings in more extensive woodlands.... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly berries and fruits (including Cecropia); one record of flowers, of Roupala complicata (Proteaceae); also leaves of... read more


    Records of laying in May, Sept and Dec in Surinam; Nov–Dec, at beginning of rains, in French Guiana; chick in early Nov in Brazil.... read more


    No information available; presumably sedentary.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Almost certainly occurs in easternmost Colombia, given sight records from around Inírida, Guainía, by an experienced... read more

    Recommended citation

    del Hoyo, J. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Little Chachalaca (Ortalis motmot). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 16 February 2020).