Cracidae – Chachalacas, Curassows & Guans

Black-fronted Piping Guan Pipile jacutinga ©Steven Brumby Website

The family Cracidae is made up of chachalacas, guans and curassows. These are species of tropical and subtropical Central and South America. One species, the Plain Chachalaca, reaches southern Texas, USA. Two species, the Trinidad Piping Guan and the Rufous-vented Chachalaca occur on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago respectively.

Cracids are large birds, similar in general appearance to turkeys. The guans and curassows live in trees, but the smaller chachalacas are found in more open scrubby habitats. Many species are fairly long-tailed, which may be an aide to navigating their largely arboreal existence. They are generally dull-plumaged, but the curassows and some guans have colourful facial ornaments. The birds in this family are particularly vocal, with the chachalacas taking their name from the sound of their call. Cracids range in size from the Little Chachalaca to the Great Curassow Crax rubra, at nearly 1m and 4.3kg.

They feed on fruit, insects and worms. They build nests in trees, and lay two to three large white eggs, which only the female incubates. The young are precocial and are born with an instinct to immediately climb and seek refuge in the nesting tree. They are able to fly within days of hatching.

Species List

The IOC recognise 55 species of Guans, Chachalacas & Crassows in the family Cracidae; they are:

Plain Chachalaca Ortalis vetula
Grey-headed Chachalaca Ortalis cinereiceps
Chestnut-winged Chachalaca Ortalis garrula
Rufous-vented Chachalaca Ortalis ruficauda
Rufous-headed Chachalaca Ortalis erythroptera
Rufous-bellied Chachalaca Ortalis wagleri
West Mexican Chachalaca Ortalis poliocephala
Chaco Chachalaca Ortalis canicollis
White-bellied Chachalaca Ortalis leucogastra
Speckled Chachalaca Ortalis guttata
East Brazilian Chachalaca Ortalis araucuan
Scaled Chachalaca Ortalis squamata
Colombian Chachalaca Ortalis columbiana
Little Chachalaca Ortalis motmot
Chestnut-headed Chachalaca Ortalis ruficeps
Buff-browed Chachalaca Ortalis superciliaris

Band-tailed Guan Penelope argyrotis
Bearded Guan Penelope barbata
Baudo Guan Penelope ortoni
Andean Guan Penelope montagnii
Marail Guan Penelope marail
Rusty-margined Guan Penelope superciliaris
Red-faced Guan Penelope dabbenei
Crested Guan Penelope purpurascens
Cauca Guan Penelope perspicax
White-winged Guan Penelope albipennis
Spix’s Guan Penelope jacquacu
Dusky-legged Guan Penelope obscura
White-crested Guan Penelope pileata
Chestnut-bellied Guan Penelope ochrogaster
White-browed Guan Penelope jacucaca

Trinidad Piping Guan Pipile pipile
Blue-throated Piping Guan Pipile cumanensis
Red-throated Piping Guan Pipile cujubi
Black-fronted Piping Guan Pipile jacutinga

Wattled Guan Aburria aburri

Black Guan Chamaepetes unicolor
Sickle-winged Guan Chamaepetes goudotii

Highland Guan Penelopina nigra

Horned Guan Oreophasis derbianus

Nocturnal Curassow Nothocrax urumutum

Crestless Curassow Mitu tomentosum
Salvin’s Curassow Mitu salvini
Razor-billed Curassow Mitu tuberosum
Alagoas Curassow Mitu mitu

Helmeted Curassow Pauxi pauxi
Horned Curassow Pauxi unicornis
Sira Curassow Pauxi koepckeae

Great Curassow Crax rubra
Blue-billed Curassow Crax alberti
Yellow-knobbed Curassow Crax daubentoni
Black Curassow Crax alector
Wattled Curassow Crax globulosa
Bare-faced Curassow Crax fasciolata
Red-billed Curassow Crax blumenbachii

Species Links
  • Blue-throated Piping Guan Pipile cumanensis

    IUCN Species Status
  • Blue-throated Piping Guan Pipile cumanensis

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Blue-throated Piping Guan Pipile cumanensis

    Species Account
    The blue-throated piping guan (Pipile cumanensis) is a South American bird of the family Cracidae that is somewhat similar in appearance to the turkey.
  • Blue-throated Piping Guan Pipile cumanensis

    Cornell Species Account
    The Blue-throated Piping-Guan is the most widespread species of piping-guan and is distributed from the Guianas across northern and western Amazonia, south into Paraguay.
  • Chestnut-bellied Guan Penelope ochrogaster

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Chestnut-bellied Guan Penelope ochrogaster

    Species Account
    The chestnut-bellied guan (Penelope ochrogaster) is a species of bird in the Cracidae family. It is found only in Brazil. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests and subtropical or tropical swamps. It is threatened by habitat loss.
  • Chestnut-bellied Guan Penelope ochrogaster

    Cornell Species Account
    Endemic to Brazil, and considered to be globally threatened, the Chestnut-bellied Guan is most easily encountered in the northern Pantanal, but a seemingly disjunct population is also distributed, at lower densities, through the Araguaia Valley of central Brazil, at the northern end of which it comes into contact with the closely related White-crested Guan (Penelope pileata).
  • Plain Chachalaca Ortalis vetula

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Plain Chachalaca Ortalis vetula

    Species Account
    The plain chachalaca (Ortalis vetula) is a large bird in the family Cracidae. It breeds in tropical and subtropical environments from mezquital thickets in the Rio Grande Valley in southernmost Texas, United States to northernmost Costa Rica.
  • Trinidad Piping Guan Pipile pipile

    IUCN Species Status
  • Trinidad Piping Guan Pipile pipile

    Species Account
    The Trinidad piping guan (Pipile pipile) locally known as the pawi,[2] is a bird in the chachalaca, guan and curassow family Cracidae, endemic to the island of Trinidad.
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 55

  • Cracid Specialist Group

    Cracids are a family of gamebirds (Cracidae), found predominantly throughout the Latin American tropics. Cracids live in a variety of tropical and subtropical habitats, The northern most species gets into the extreme southern portion of Texas, and the southern most species ranges as far south as the Plate River Basin in Buenos Aires Province, Argentina
Forums & Mailing Lists
  • Cracids Newsletter

    Mailing List
    Subscription: send a name and email to receive Cracid Newsletter regularly.
Other Links
  • Rescue The Horned Guan [Oreophasis derbianus] Project

    So far, our biggest and most challenging project! An effort in which the indigenous inhabitants of San Pedro La Laguna on lake Atitlán, The National Counsil for Protected Areas, a nature-oriented foundation and our company are getting involved, in order to study, learn more and help in the conservation of this fascinating bird, The Horned Guan (Oreophasis derbianus). At the same time this project will help in the preservation of the enviromnet in which this bird, and many other flora & fauna species live…

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