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A photo of a Great Curassow (Crax rubra), male
Great Curassow, Male

Great Curassow

Crax rubra

The Great Curassow, Crax rubra, is a majestic bird reminiscent of a pheasant, but on a grander scale. Males are a striking black with a distinctive curly crest, a white underbelly, and a bright yellow knob on their bill. Females exhibit a fascinating variety of color morphs, including barred, rufous, and black, each with its own unique pattern and hue.

Identification Tips

To identify the Great Curassow, look for a very large bird with a body length ranging from 78 to 100 cm and a weight between 3.1 and 4.8 kg. The male's black plumage and curly crest are unmistakable, as is the yellow bill knob. Females can be identified by their color morphs: barred with a patterned neck and wings, rufous with a reddish-brown plumage, or dark with a blackish appearance and faint wing barring.

Habitat

This species thrives in the Neotropical rainforests, where it spends much of its time on the forest floor but roosts and nests in the trees.

Distribution

The Great Curassow's range extends from eastern Mexico through Central America and reaches as far as western Colombia and northwestern Ecuador.

Behaviour

These birds are known to be gregarious, forming small groups of up to a dozen individuals. They are primarily ground foragers, feasting on fruits, figs, arthropods, and occasionally small vertebrates. They exhibit a rather aggressive temperament, especially in captivity, which is likely an adaptation to deter predators.

Song & Calls

The call of the Great Curassow is a peculiar lingering whistle, similar to that of other curassows.

Breeding

The Great Curassow is monogamous, with males sometimes building the nest to attract females. The nest, typically made of leaves, is relatively small and holds two eggs. The species is known for its aggressive behavior in protecting its young from predators.

Similar Species

While similar in size to other curassow species, the Great Curassow can be distinguished by its larger mean standard measurements and the male's unique yellow bill knob.

Diet and Feeding

The diet is mainly composed of fallen fruits, figs, and arthropods, with a preference for certain fruits like Spondias mombin or the red berries of Chione trees, depending on the region.

Conservation status

The Great Curassow is currently classified as Vulnerable due to habitat loss and hunting pressures. Conservation efforts include breeding programs in Mexico and protection under CITES in several countries. The subspecies C. r. griscomi from Cozumel Island is of particular concern, with only a few hundred individuals remaining.

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