Canopy Family | Dusky-backed Jacamar

Dusky-backed Jacamar
Brachygalba salmoni

Dusky-backed Jacamar Uwe Speck Panama
Photo by Uwe Speck


The charming Dusky-backed Jacamar is one of our Darién specialties, found only in a tiny range on the border between Panama and Colombia. It is a small jacamar, only 17 cm in length, greenish-black above with glossy dark green on breast, a dark brown crown and white throat (throat is more buffy in females), and a cinnamon belly. It has a short tail, unlike the other two jacamar species found in Panama. Its bill is very long and slender, and when perched it angles its bill upward.

The Dusky-backed Jacamar, like many other species of jacamars, prefers open habitats, clearings, gaps and forest edges and somewhat disturbed habitats. It is typically found in pairs or small family groups. Perching high on exposed horizontal branches, it sallies out to catch flying insects, including beetles, moths, butterflies, bees and wasps, often returning to the same branch. It is fairly vocal (yet not as vocal as the Rufous-tailed Jacamar); its call is an upward inflected “psee” or “sweet” repeated frequently. The breeding ecology of the Dusky-backed Jacamar is poorly known, and like others, it probably nests in banks. Birds have been reported in breeding condition in January and February.

The Dusky-backed Jacamar is the smallest of the three species of jacamar in Panama. Even though the ranges of all three species overlap in Darién, they are very distinct from each other in appearance and habitat preference. In Panama, the Dusky-backed Jacamar is found only in the lowlands of Darién, up to 600 meters in elevation, where it is uncommon to locally common. The Dusky-backed Jacamar is one of our target species at Canopy Camp Darien, where it is usually encountered along rivers and open areas.