Great Curassow Fact File
Credit: Greg Schechter from San Francisco, USA, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Wild 10-15 years
Captive 24 years
The great curassow is a bird found throughout Central and South America with a unique race restricted to Cozumel Island off the coast of Mexico.
These animals are primarily herbivorous using their large feet to dig for berries and fallen fruit. They will opportunistically take animal prey as well.
Females and males form pairs which are considered monogamous. They will build a small nest in the trees where they raise two chicks which can feed for themselves soon after hatching.
Their population is increasingly threatened through habitat loss and hunting for food or to supply the pet trade.
Read on to learn more about these beautiful birds.
What does the great curassow look like?
These animals are considered sexually dimorphic meaning the male and female look different to one another.
Males are covered mostly with black feathers. The underside of the male great curassow is white.
Females by comparison are chestnut across the majority of their body. On the head and neck these animals have black and white barring.
On the crown (top of the head) of both males and females are several feathers which stick up and curl forwards.
The bill itself is colored pinkish grey from the tip to the nostrils before becoming yellowish for the rest of its length. In males it features a large yellow knob on the upper portion.
They have a dark brown iris. Their legs are colored grey.
An average great curassow will measure 91cm (36in) long with a weigh of up to 5kg (11lbs).
What does the great curassow eat?
These animals are primarily herbivores which will consume fruit, berries, seeds and tender shoots. Occasionally they will also consume small amounts of animal matter they find on the forest floor. This may include insects, reptiles and small mammals.
Their large, strong feet are used for scratching through leaf litter to seek out food.
Credit: EyeLoveBirds from Vancouver, Canada, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Where can you find the great curassow?
South and Central America is the native home of the great curassow. Here they can be found in the following countries – Belize; Colombia; Costa Rica; Ecuador; El Salvador; Guatemala; Honduras; Mexico; Nicaragua and Panama.
A distinct race, griscomi is restricted to Cozumel Island off of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
What kind of environment does the great curassow live in?
These animals occur in areas of humid evergreen forest and wetlands. They show little tolerance towards habitat destruction. Great curassow primarily persist in lowland areas.
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How does the great curassow produce its young?
Breeding season is variable across their range but typically falls somewhere between February and June.
Males will display for a potential mate by leaning forward, raising the head, puffing out his tail feathers and then leaning back while letting out a loud booming call. If a female is suitably impressed with this display they may enter his territory.
During the breeding season the knob on the males bill will become more prominent.
Great curassows build their nest at heights of up to 30m (100ft) off the ground in a tree. The nest is basket like and formed from branches, leaves and other plant matter.
They have been recorded to build multiple nests during the breeding season but only complete the one they use.
In to their nest they will deposit two eggs. Their eggs have a rough shell are are colored white. These are incubated for 30-32 days.
Chicks are well developed at hatching and can feed themselves from birth.
Sexual maturity is reached between 2 and 3 years old.
They can interbreed with the blue-billed curassow and the black curassow to produce a hybrid.
What does the great curassow do with its day?
These animals are among the most-ground dwelling of the curassows but still return to the trees to roost and to nest.
Great curassows will primarily move around on their own or as part of a pair. Occasionally they will gather in groups of up to 12.
Males can produce a deep, booming call and a high-pitched whistle.
Credit: Andy Morffew from Itchen Abbas, Hampshire, UK, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Predators and Threats
What is impacting the survival of the great curassow?
Natural predators of the great curassow include ocelots and birds of prey such as the ornate hawk eagle. Eggs and chicks are predated by a number of species.
When threatened these animals run from the threat as their first defense only flying where absolutely necessary.
The mature population of these birds is believed to include around 40,000 individuals but is continuing to decrease in number. The population of 300 on Cozumel Island is also in decline.
A major factor in the decline of this species has been hunting for food, sport and to supply the wildlife trade.
Another major influence on their population is habitat loss and deforestation.
Other small factors in their decline include natural disasters such as hurricanes and fire and the introduction of invasive species.
These birds are the largest members of the family, Cracidae. This family includes 54 species.
The “rubra” portion of their scientific name is in reference to the red color of the females.
Two subspecies are recognized. One is restricted to Cozumel Island in the Yucatan, Mexico with a population of just 300 birds. The other occupies the remainder of their range.
Credit: Bjoertvedt, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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