It is a small, roundish dark brown bird with a short narrow tail and a dull whitish breast. It is a bright multicolored bird, named for its cap, which is a deep chestnut. A medium orange, narrow collar on the upper back borders the chestnut cap and ends at the side of the neck in a spot. A second collar, similar to that of the collared puffbird, is on the upper breast, wider on the sides, narrow under the throat, and deep black. The black collar is parallel to a second deep black stripe, an eye-stripe across the lower eye from the side to the bill. The deep chestnut cap and two black stripes enclose two parallel bright white stripes. The bill is stout, short and medium black, with a decurved tip. The bird has black eyes, black legs, and also short light-buff whiskered-feathers surrounding the base of its bill (moustachial). These bright head colors contrast with a duller colored body and breast.
Distribution and habitat
It is found in northwestern South America in the western Amazon Basin of Brazil, in Amazonian Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, northern Bolivia, and in the eastern Orinoco River Basin of Venezuela. Its natural habitats are subtropical and tropical moist lowland forests and subtropical or tropical swamps.
Range: western Amazon Basin
The chestnut-capped puffbird is found in the western Amazon Basin, and in the north in Venezuela, the upper and eastern reaches of the Orinoco River Basin and eastwards into Brazil's Roraima state, in the west. It is not found east of Roraima's south-flowing Branco River.
On the Amazon River its range starts upstream of the Madeira River confluence, but the entire Madeira is its eastern limit in the Basin's southwest quadrant, extending upstream into its tributaries in northern Bolivia. Likewise it is at the confluence of the Amazon River and the Rio Negro, but its range skips 400 kilometres (250 mi) to above the Branco River–Rio Negro confluence. This contiguous range in the northeast goes northwards into southern-central Venezuela bordering Roraima state in Brazil, then southwards through Amazonian southeast Colombia, eastern Ecuador, eastern Peru, and extreme northern Bolivia.