Cracidae – Chachalacas, Curassows & Guans

Chestnut-bellied Guan Penelope ochrogaster ©Will Price 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.

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

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
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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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