Crested guan

The crested guan (Penelope purpurascens) is a member of an ancient group of birds of the family Cracidae, which are related to the Australasian mound builders. It is found in the Neotropics, in lowlands forests ranging from south Mexico and the Yucatán Peninsula to western Ecuador and southern Venezuela. The sexes are similar in appearance; the plumage is mainly dark brown with white spotting, an area of bare skin round the eye, bright red wattles, a bushy crest, a long broad tail and pink legs. It is a social bird, often seen in pairs or small family groups. It feeds in trees, mainly on fruit, and builds a nest of twigs on a branch. The two or three white eggs are incubated by the female. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated this bird's conservation status as "least concern".

Crested guan
Penelope purpurascens.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Family: Cracidae
Genus: Penelope
P. purpurascens
Binomial name
Penelope purpurascens
Wagler, 1830
  • P. p. aequatorialis (Salvadori and Festa, 1900)
  • P. p. brunnescens (Hellmayr and Conover, 1932)
  • P. p. purpurascens (Wagler, 1830)
Penelope purpurascens map.svg
Crested Guan.jpg


Chan Chich Lodge area, Belize - flash photo
Chan Chich Lodge area, Belize

This is a large gamebird, with a length varying from 84 to 91.5 cm (33.1 to 36.0 in). These birds commonly weigh around 1,750 g (3.9 lb), though can weigh as little as 1,361 g (3.0 lb) in P. p. brunnescens, the smallest race on average. Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 33 to 42.8 cm (13.0 to 16.9 in), the tail is 34 to 41.5 cm (13.4 to 16.3 in) and the tarsus is 7.4 to 9.1 cm (2.9 to 3.6 in).[2][3] It is similar in general appearance to a turkey, with a small head, long strong red legs, and a long broad tail. It is mainly dark brown, with white spotting on the neck and breast. The rump and belly are rufous. The head sports a bushy crest, from which the species gets its name, blue-grey bare skin around the eye, and a bare red dewlap or wattle. The sexes are similar, but young birds have black vermiculations and ochre specks on the body plumage.

The crested guan is a noisy bird with a loud plee or quonk call, a whistled contact call and a powerful keLEEEErrrr! dawn song.


The crested guan breeds in lowlands from south Mexico and the Yucatán Peninsula to western Ecuador and southern Venezuela at up to 1,850 m (6,070 ft) altitude.


A crested guan in the wild on Barro Colorado Island, Panama

The crested guan is an arboreal forest species. The substantial twig nest is built in a tree or stump and lined with leaves. The female lays two or three large rough-shelled white eggs and incubates them alone.

This is a social bird, often seen in pairs or family groups of 6–12. It walks along branches seeking the fruit and foliage on which it feeds, or flies off with a heavy ani-like flap and glide.

The range of this species has severely contracted outside remote or protected forests due to deforestation and hunting, but it has a very wide range and is a relatively common species so the International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated its conservation status as being of "least concern".[1] Commonly found in the forest floor near forest edges and gardens on biological stations such as La Selva in Sarapiqui Costa Rica, they are playful and chase each another running around in circles for a good hour or so. Sometimes taking turns among three individuals.


  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2012). "Penelope purpurascens". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2016.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  2. ^ Schulenberg, Thomas S.; Stotz, Douglas F.; Lane, Daniel F.; O'Neill, John P. (2010-05-24). Birds of Peru: Revised and Updated Edition - Thomas S. Schulenberg, Douglas F. Stotz, Daniel F. Lane, John P. O'Neill, Theodore A. Parker III - Google Books. ISBN 9781400834495. Retrieved 2012-08-30.
  3. ^ Curassows, Guans and Chachalacas by Nigel Hughes. Wildside Books (UK). 2006, ISBN 0905062264

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