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A photo of a Grey-headed Chachalaca (Ortalis cinereiceps)
Grey-headed Chachalaca

Grey-headed Chachalaca

Ortalis cinereiceps

The grey-headed chachalaca, Ortalis cinereiceps, is a medium-sized bird that bears a resemblance to turkeys, with its small head, robust legs, and an elongated, broad tail. Adults typically measure between 48 to 58 cm in length and weigh between 490 to 540 grams. Their plumage is rather understated, with grayish-brown tones dominating the upper parts and a paler hue below. A distinctive dark grey head is complemented by a red dewlap, while the blackish tail features a buff tip. The primary flight feathers exhibit a striking bright chestnut color. Juvenile birds present a more uniform brown coloration, particularly on the head.

Identification Tips

To identify the grey-headed chachalaca, look for its dark grey head and red dewlap, which are key distinguishing features. The chestnut primaries are also quite noticeable, especially in flight. The bird's overall dull plumage and robust body shape are characteristic of the species.

Habitat

This species thrives in humid environments where dense vegetation is prevalent, such as thickets, secondary forests, brushy fields that have been abandoned, and forests that have been thinned. It tends to avoid the dense interiors of forests but may be found along their edges. Its habitat range extends from sea level up to 1,700 meters in elevation.

Distribution

The grey-headed chachalaca is native to a region stretching from Mosquitia in eastern Honduras through eastern Nicaragua, across most of Costa Rica and Panama, and into Colombia's ChocΓ³ Department. It is also found on Isla del Rey in Panama, where it may have been introduced by indigenous peoples.

Behaviour

These birds are typically observed foraging in groups ranging from six to twelve individuals, but occasionally groups may swell to as many as twenty. They forage primarily in vegetation but will also search for food on the ground. During the dry season, they are known to frequent riversides for drinking in the mornings and evenings.

Song & calls

The grey-headed chachalaca is somewhat less vocal than some of its relatives. Its song can be described as a soft "cha-cha-lac-ah," while its flock calls are a raucous "kloik, kleeuk kraahk." Additionally, it emits a variety of screams, sharp alarm calls, and a subdued purring sound.

Breeding

The breeding season for the grey-headed chachalaca coincides with the dry season, typically spanning from January to May. The female constructs a broad, shallow nest from twigs and vines, usually situated 1 to 2.4 meters above the ground and often concealed by vines. She lays three dull white eggs and is solely responsible for their incubation.

Similar Species

There are no similar species mentioned in the provided content.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the grey-headed chachalaca is predominantly fruit-based, constituting about 75% of its intake. Leaves make up around 17%, and invertebrates about 8%. The bird's foraging habits are adapted to its varied diet.

Conservation status

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified the grey-headed chachalaca as Least Concern. While it is considered fairly common to common throughout its range, in some areas, populations have been significantly impacted by hunting. Nonetheless, the species shows a good degree of adaptability to certain types of habitat disturbance.

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