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A photo of a Black Guan (Chamaepetes unicolor)
Black Guan

Black Guan

Chamaepetes unicolor

The black guan, known scientifically as Chamaepetes unicolor, is a striking bird cloaked in an all-black plumage. This species exhibits a bright blue facial skin that contrasts sharply with its red eye, creating a vivid display of color against the dark feathers. The legs and feet of the black guan are a pinkish-red hue, adding to its distinctive appearance. Adult birds typically measure between 62 to 69 cm in length and weigh around 1,135 grams. Juveniles share a similar look but are less glossy, with browner underparts and darker facial skin.

Identification Tips

When identifying the black guan, look for its uniform black plumage and the remarkable blue facial skin encircling a red eye. The bird's pinkish-red legs and feet are also key characteristics to note. Juveniles may be identified by their less lustrous feathers and darker facial skin.


The black guan is a denizen of the cloud forests within the Talamancan montane forest ecozone. It shows a preference for steep, rugged terrain and can be found at elevations typically ranging from 1,000 to 2,250 meters, though this can vary from as low as 800 meters to as high as 3,000 meters depending on the geographic area.


This species is endemic to the regions stretching from the Cordillera de Guanacaste in northern Costa Rica to western Coclé Province in Panama.


The black guan is considered to be mainly sedentary, although there is some evidence suggesting seasonal movements in elevation. It is often observed foraging alone, in pairs, or in small groups.

Diet and Feeding

Fruits comprise the primary diet of the black guan, with studies in Costa Rica identifying at least 35 different species in their diet. While they mostly feed in trees, they will not hesitate to consume fallen fruit from the forest floor.


The breeding season for the black guan is thought to occur from February to June. Nests are described as small platforms of twigs and leaves, often situated in clumps of epiphytes within trees, around 4.5 meters above the ground. Clutch sizes generally consist of two or three eggs.

Song & calls

The vocal repertoire of the black guan includes piping calls during the breeding season, a low, deep 'ro-rooo' or a coughing 'kowr' when disturbed, and a 'tsik tsik' alarm call. At dawn and dusk, it performs a wing-rattling display that emits a loud, sharp, crackling sound.

Conservation status

The IUCN has classified the black guan as Least Concern. In Costa Rica, it is fairly common within protected areas, while in Panama, it is only locally numerous. Despite protection, the species is subject to heavy hunting for food in some regions.

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