AppearanceThe spotted puffbird is about 18 cm long and weighs 33 to 42 g. The nominate has a pale rufous forehead that becomes rufous spots on a dark brown background on the crown. Below that is a blackish band through the eye, below that a white stripe, and below that a black patch. The white stripe continues around the nape. The upperparts and wings are dark brown with some buffy scallops and the tail is dark brown with some buffy edges to the feathers. The chin is white, the throat rufous, the breast and flanks whitish with black spots and scales, and the belly and vent white with small black spots. The bill is black, the eye bright red, and the feet dark gray or greenish. "B. t. pulmentum"'s throat is much paler than the nominate's, the forehead brighter, and the spotting heavier. "B. t. hypnaleus" is larger than the nominate but with a smaller bill, and the spotting on its underside is heavier especially on the breast.
DistributionThe nominate subspecies of spotted puffbird is found from eastern Colombia east through Venezuela and the Guianas into Brazil and south in Brazil to the left bank of the Amazon River. "B. t. pulmentum" is found from southeastern Colombia south through eastern Ecuador, northeastern Peru, and western Brazil into northeastern Bolivia. "B. t. hypnaleus" is found in Amazonian Brazil east of the Tapajós River.
StatusThe IUCN has assessed the spotted puffbird as being of Least Concern. However, though it has a very large range, its population has not been quantified and is believed to be decreasing. It is thought to be uncommon in most of its range but is easily overlooked and so might be more abundant. It occurs in several protected areas.
HabitatThe species inhabits a variety of somewhat open landscapes such as "várzea" and "igapó" forests, mature secondary forest, savanna woodland, and gallery forest. It seldom occurs in the interior of dense forest. In elevation it generally ranges from sea level to 1,400 m but in Venezuela it usually occurs below 700 m.
ReproductionThe spotted puffbird's breeding season varies in different parts of its range, but in general is between March to September. It lays its clutch of two eggs in a chamber excavated in arboreal termitaria.
FoodThe spotted puffbird usually forages from a low perch, sallying out to pluck prey from foliage or bark. It sometimes follows army ant swarms. Its diet includes many types of insects, other invertebrates such as spiders and scorpions, small lizards, and mistletoe berries.
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