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A photo of a Speckled Chachalaca (Ortalis guttata)
Speckled Chachalaca

Speckled Chachalaca

Ortalis guttata

The Speckled Chachalaca, Ortalis guttata, is a bird of considerable charm, found flitting through the forests of South America. This species, with its length ranging from 49 to 55 cm, is adorned in a mostly brown plumage. The head and neck are a darker shade, grayer in tone, while the mantle is tinged with chestnut. A bronze gloss graces the tail, with outer feathers flushed rufous. The throat and breast are dark brown, speckled with white, giving this bird its name. The belly is a lighter grayish brown, and the vent is a striking bright rufous. The eye, dark brown to dark reddish brown, is set in a frame of bare slate blue skin.

Identification Tips

To identify the Speckled Chachalaca, look for the white speckles on the dark brown throat and breast, the chestnut wash on the mantle, and the bright rufous vent. The bird's size and the coloration of the plumage, particularly the bronze gloss on the tail, are also distinctive features.


The Speckled Chachalaca is quite adaptable, inhabiting a variety of tropical and subtropical environments. It is commonly found in low or open forests, thickets, forest islands within savannas, and along várzea and riparian forests. It tends to avoid the dense interiors of terra firme forests.


This species is distributed across several South American countries, including Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. It is found at elevations up to 2,000 meters in Bolivia, 1,100 meters in Ecuador, and 1,700 meters in Peru, with some local variations.


The Speckled Chachalaca is often observed in small flocks, foraging primarily in the subcanopy and understory, and only occasionally venturing to the ground. It is known to be quite agile in its arboreal habitat.

Song & calls

The Speckled Chachalaca's vocal repertoire includes a rhythmic five-syllable phrase that can be heard echoing through the forests. This call, which sounds like "ha-ga-GAA-gogok," is repeated rapidly and is a distinctive sound of its habitat.


Details on the breeding habits of the Speckled Chachalaca are somewhat elusive. However, it is known that the nesting season varies by region, with a period from November to March in Peru. Nests are constructed from leaves and dry ferns, and the clutch typically consists of three to four eggs.

Similar Species

While there are other chachalaca species, the Speckled Chachalaca can be distinguished by its unique speckled throat and breast, as well as its size and the specific coloration of its plumage.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Speckled Chachalaca is not extensively documented, but it is known to include a variety of fruits and other plant materials.

Conservation status

The IUCN has classified the Speckled Chachalaca as Least Concern, indicating a stable population. The Amazonian subspecies are generally common and have adapted well to human activity. However, the subspecies O. g. remota is considered very rare and is listed as Critically Endangered by Brazilian authorities due to habitat loss from hydroelectric reservoirs.

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