Neotropical Birds
Version  1.0
This is a historic version of this account.   Current version

White-chested Puffbird Malacoptila fusca

Thomas S. Schulenberg and Hope Batcheller
Version: 1.0 — Published April 13, 2013


Distinguishing Characteristics

Puffbirds generally have a large headed appearance, with a long stout bill and "loose" plumage. Malacoptila are medium sized puffbirds; the plumage is predominately brown in most species, streaked with white or buff. The upperparts of White-chested Puffbird are dark brown, streaked with buff. The lores are white or buff, and there is a similarly colored submoustachial stripe. The underparts generally are buffy or dirty white, with blurry streals of dark brown, and a narrow white crescent across the breast. The bill of White-chested Puffbird is long, slightly decurved, and is mostly dull orange, with a black tip and line along the culmen.

Similar Species

White-chested Puffbird is the only species of Malacoptila across much of its range, and so usually is difficult to confuse with other species. Rufous-necked Puffbird (Malacoptila rufa), which locally overlaps with White-chested Puffbird, has a very different plumage pattern. Black-streaked Puffbird (Malacoptila fulvogularis) of the Andes typically occurs at higher elevations than White-chested Puffbird, is larger and blacker than White-chested Puffbird, and has an entirely black bill and a buff (not white) patch on the breast. The species that is most similar to White-chested Puffbird is Semicollared Puffbird (Malacoptila semicincta) of southwestern Amazonia; Semicollared Puffbird is somewhat darker overall than White-chested Puffbird, and has a broad chestnut collar across the nape.

Detailed Description

The following description is based on Rasmussen and Collar (2002):

Adult: Head and upperparts, including wing coverts, generally dark brown (but the crown darker, more blackish brown), the feathers with contrasting but narrow buffy shaft streaks. Rectrices warm brown; tail graduated. Lores, "whisker" mark, and chin whitish. Narrow white crescent across upper breast. Lower breast streaked with brown and buff; lower underparts paler, vaguely streaked or mottled.



Bare Parts

Iris: reddish brown, yellow, or red; immature has brown iris

Bill: yellow orange, culmen and tip black

Tarsus and toes: yellow olive, pale olive

Bare parts color data from specimens in the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science and from Rasmussen and Collar (2002).


Total length: 18 cm (Hilty and Brown 1986, Hilty 2003), 18-18.5 cm (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001b)

Linear measurements (from live specimens, sexes combined; Bierregaard 1988):

wing length, mean 86.93 mm ± 2.79 mm, n = 63

tail length, mean 65.02 mm ± 3.14 mm, n = 59

Mass: mean 44.21 g ± 3.32 g, n = 105 (Bierregaard 1988)

Recommended Citation

Schulenberg, T. S. and H. Batcheller (2013). White-chested Puffbird (Malacoptila fusca), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.whcpuf1.01
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