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Great Curassow Fact File

Crax rubra

Credit: Greg Schechter from San Francisco, USA, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Weight

5kg

(11lbs)

Length

91cm

(36in)

Lifespan

Wild 10-15 years

Captive 24 years

Diet

Herbivorous

Fruits, Berries

Conservation Status

IUCN

Vulnerable

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.

Appearance

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).

Diet

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.

Great Curassow

Credit: EyeLoveBirds from Vancouver, Canada, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Range

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.

Habitat

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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Reproduction

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.

Behavior

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.

Great Curassow

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.

Quick facts

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.

Great Curassow

Credit: Bjoertvedt, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

References

Alderton, D. and Barrett, P., 2019. The complete illustrated encyclopedia of birds of the world. Lorenz Books.

Zoobarcelona.cat. 2021. Great curassow. [online] Available at: <https://www.zoobarcelona.cat/en/animals/great-curassow> [Accessed 15 October 2021].

Rainforest Alliance. 2021. Great Curassow | Rainforest Alliance. [online] Available at: <https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/species/curassow/> [Accessed 15 October 2021].

Oaklandzoo.org. 2021. Oakland Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://www.oaklandzoo.org/animals/great-curassow> [Accessed 15 October 2021]. dS

American Bird Conservancy. 2021. Great Curassow. [online] Available at: <https://abcbirds.org/bird/great-curassow/> [Accessed 15 October 2021].

Whitehawkbirding.com. 2021. Great Curassow: A Neotropical Specialty | Whitehawk Birding Blog. [online] Available at: <https://www.whitehawkbirding.com/great-curassow/> [Accessed 15 October 2021].

Bird Fact. 2021. Great Curassow Bird Facts (Crax rubra). [online] Available at: <https://birdfact.com/birds/great-curassow> [Accessed 15 October 2021].

Niabi Zoo. 2021. Great Curassow – Niabi Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://www.niabizoo.com/animals-habitats-details/great-curassow/> [Accessed 15 October 2021].

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