Keel-billed Motmot Electron carinatum


Justification of Red List category
This species has a relatively large and fragmented range, but it occurs at low densities and therefore requires large expanses of undisturbed habitat to sustain viable populations. It is classified as Vulnerable because its small population forms several disjunct subpopulations and is undergoing a decline.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 1,667-6,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 1,500-7,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The species's population is undergoing a slow decline, owing to the clearance of lowland and montane forest throughout its range for agriculture and human settlement. Forest loss throughout this range is currently estimated to be occurring at ~8% per three generations (Tracewski et al. 2016).

Distribution and population

Electron carinatum has been recorded at a relatively small number of localities scattered over an extensive range in Central America, generally on the Caribbean slope of south Mexico, south Belize, GuatemalaHondurasNicaragua, and north-central Costa Rica (Miller and Miller 1996, AOU 1998, M. Bonta in litt. 1999). Records of two individuals from La Tirimbina, Costa Rica, in February 2004 may be the southernmost for this species (R. Garrigues in litt. 2007). Most records have been of pairs or single birds, and it has been recorded only once at most localities. The exceptions to this are recent observations in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica but, even at these sites, it occurs at a very low density and is generally considered rare to uncommon (Miller and Miller 1996, Eisermann 2005, J. E. Sanchez et al. in litt. 2007). In Belize, records are concentrated in the southern Greater Maya Mountain region of the country (B.W. and C. M. Miller in litt. 2007), and most populations are small and many are significantly isolated (Miller and Miller 1996). In Costa Rica, there have been several recent records, mostly in Volcán Arenal area, from private reserves and the national park (J. E. Sanchez et al. in litt. 2007, R. Garrigues in litt. 2007). It appears to have declined in range in Mexico and parts of Guatemala, and there are very few recent records in Mexico (Gómez de Silva 2002, H. Gómez de Silva in litt. 2007). Mixed pairs of E. carinatum and Broad-billed Motmot Electron platyrhynchum have been documented in Costa Rica (J. E. Sanchez et al. in litt. 2007, R. Garrigues in litt. 2007) with records at three different sites in the Arenal area (R. Garrigues in litt. 2007).


It occurs in humid lowland and montane forest up to 760 m, but there are three records at 1,220-1,555 m in Honduras (Miller and Miller 1996). In Costa Rica, it is restricted to foothill and adjacent lowland primary and secondary forests (F. G. Stiles in litt. 1999, J. E. Sanchez et al. in litt. 2007, L. Sandoval in litt. 2016). In Belize, it has been recorded most densely in an area of steep terrain intersected by many seasonal streams (Miller and Miller 1996). Nests in Costa Rica have been found in road and trail banks (J. E. Sanchez et al. in litt. 2007). This species may hybridise with E. platyrhynchum (L. Sandoval in litt. 2016, Cerqueira et al. 2020).


In Mexico, all suitable habitat is being cleared at an alarming rate, and in Costa Rica the foothills have been heavily deforested since 1980 (F. G. Stiles in litt. 1999). Most habitat loss is the result of human settlement and conversion to subsistence agriculture, especially banana plantations. In Costa Rica, most of the habitat lost has been cut during logging activities, and following this the cleared land has been used for cattle grazing and subsequently converted to extensive pineapple plantations (J. E. Sanchez et al. in litt. 2007), however, its remaining habitat in this country may be within protected areas (L. Sandoval in litt. 2016). Protected areas where the species occurs in Guatemala are threatened by forest fires, illegal logging and conversion to agriculture (K. Eisermann in litt. 2007). Its habitat in Guatemala is generally threatened by clearance for small-scale cultivation, large-scale cattle farming and banana plantations, driven by a rapidly growing human population (K. Eisermann in litt. 2007). Similarly, both the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve in Honduras and Park Natl. Saslaya in Nicaragua are acutely threatened by logging, agricultural conversion and incursion by colonists (A. Vallely in litt. 2016). In Belize, there have been thought to be no immediate threats or human population centres in the area in which the species's population is concentrated (B.W. and C. M. Miller in litt. 2007), although more recently environmental conditions in the south west part of Belize have come under increasing threat from colonists and land conversion originating in adjacent Guatemala (A. Vallely in litt. 2016). This species may hybridise with E. platyrhynchum (L. Sandoval in litt. 2016), but it is not certain to what extent this may be a threat to the genetic integrity of this species.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
There are several protected areas where it has previously been recorded, but there are very few with recent sightings and information on remaining habitat is often lacking. The exceptions are Belize (Miller and Miller 1996) and Guatemala (K. Eisermann in litt. 2007), where the majority of populations are within reserves. However, protected areas in Guatemala face threats owing to management deficiencies (K. Eisermann in litt. 2007). It is on the watch list as part of the State of North America's Birds (North American Bird Conservation Initiative 2016).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Identify and survey remaining forest to assess the species's status. Survey all historical sites and those with recent reports, such as in Guatemala and Honduras, the Honduras-Nicaragua border area, the extensive Atlantic forest areas of Nicaragua and the region around Lake Arenal, Monteverde and Rincón de la Vieja, Costa Rica (Miller and Miller 1996). Gather all ad-hoc sightings of the species and encourage the submission of records. Use survey data and sightings to estimate the total population size. Monitor rates of habitat loss and degradation at known and potential localities. Improve management of protected areas in Guatemala.


32 cm. Strikingly plumaged bird. Green crowned, tinged buffy. Chestnut frontal blotch. Broad, bright blue supercilium. Black lores, around eye and auriculars. Mostly bright green above and on throat. Below lighter green tinged with cinnamon in lower breast and belly. Black spot in mid-breast. Green tail with blue tips plus blue racquets edged black. Voice Loud, far-carrying and low pitched nasal cuaet cuaet cadack (J. E. Sanchez et al. in litt. 2007). This call, one of at least seven that have been identified, is very similar to that of Broad-billed Motmot E. platyrhynchum (J. E. Sanchez et al. in litt. 2007). Also a long, nasal, corvid-like caaaaw (B.W. and C. M. Miller in litt. 2007). Hints In January-March, it is readily detected as the males are on territory and stridently vocalising, but beware confusion with E. platyrhynchum in Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.


Text account compilers
Everest, J.

Benstead, P., Biamonte, E., Bonta, M., Capper, D., Criado, J., Eisermann, K., Garrigues, R., Gómez de Silva, H., Miller, B.W., Miller, C.M., Sandoval, L., Sharpe, C.J., Stiles, F.G., Stuart, T., Sánchez, C., Sánchez, J., Taylor, J., Vallely, A., Westrip, J.R.S. & Zook, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Electron carinatum. Downloaded from on 23/09/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 23/09/2023.