Curassows are one of the three major groups of cracid birds.[1] Three of the four genera are restricted to tropical South America; a single species of Crax ranges north to Mexico. They form a distinct clade which is usually classified as the subfamily Cracinae.[1]

Image Genus Living Species
Nothocrax urumutum -head -zoo-8a Nothocrax
Mitu tuberosa Whaldener Endo Mitu
Pauxi pauxi -Denver Zoo, Colorado, USA -head-8a Pauxi – Helmeted curassows
Hocofaisán (8708251591) Crax
Wattled Curassow Crax globulosa Head 2600px
Head of female wattled curassow Crax globulosa
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Family: Cracidae
Subfamily: Cracinae
Vigors, 1825


In line with the other 3 main lineages of cracids (chachalacas, true guans, and the horned guan), mt and nDNA sequence data indicates that the curassows diverged from their closest living relatives (probably the guans) at some time during the Oligocene, or c.35–20 mya (Pereira et al. 2002). This data must be considered preliminary until corroborated by material (e.g. fossil) evidence however.

What appears certain from analysis of the molecular data, calibrated against geological events that would have induced speciation is that there are 2 major lineages of curassows: one containing only Crax, and another made up of Mitu and Pauxi. The position of the peculiar nocturnal curassow is not well resolved; it might be closer to the latter, but in any case, it diverged around the same time as the split between the two major lineages. All curassow genera appear to have diverged, in fact, during the Tortonian (early Late Miocene): the initial split took place some 10–9 mya, and Pauxi diverged from Mitu some 8–7.4 mya (but see genus article).(Pereira & Baker 2004)

Unlike the other cracids, biogeography and phylogeny indicate that the extant lineages of curassows probably originated in the lowlands of the western/northwestern Amazonas basin, most likely in the general area where today, the borders of Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Guatemala meet. In the two larger genera, vicariant speciation seems to have played a major role.(Pereira et al. 2002, Pereira & Baker 2004)


  1. ^ a b Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Curassow" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 636.
  • Pereira, Sérgio Luiz & Baker, Allan J. (2004): Vicariant speciation of curassows (Aves, Cracidae): a hypothesis based on mitochondrial DNA phylogeny. Auk 121(3): 682-694. [English with Spanish abstract] DOI:10.1642/0004-8038(2004)121[0682:VSOCAC]2.0.CO;2 HTML abstract HTML fulltext without images
  • Pereira, Sérgio Luiz; Baker, Allan J.& Wajntal, Anita (2002): Combined nuclear and mitochondrial DNA sequences resolve generic relationships within the Cracidae (Galliformes, Aves). Systematic Biology 51(6): 946-958. doi:10.1080/10635150290102519 PMID 12554460 PDF fulltext
Alagoas curassow

The Alagoas curassow (Mitu mitu) is a glossy-black, pheasant-like bird. It was formerly found in forests in Northeastern Brazil in what is now the states of Pernambuco and Alagoas, which is the origin of its common name (Harry 2006). It is now extinct in the wild; there are about 130 individuals in captivity.

German naturalist Georg Marcgrave first identified the Alagoas curassow in 1648 in its native range. Subsequently, the origin and legitimacy of the bird began to be questioned due to the lack of specimens. An adult female curassow was rediscovered in 1951, in the coastal forests of Alagoas. The Mitu mitu was then accepted as a separate species (Silveira). At that time fewer than 60 birds were left in the wild, in the forests around São Miguel dos Campos. Several authors in the 1970s brought to light the growing destruction of its habitat and the rarity of the species. Even with these concerns, the last large forest remnants which contained native Mitu mitu were demolished for sugarcane agriculture.

Bare-faced curassow

The bare-faced curassow (Crax fasciolata) is a species of bird in the family Cracidae, the chachalacas, guans, curassows, etc. It is found in Brazil, Paraguay, and eastern Bolivia, and extreme northeast Argentina, in the cerrado, pantanal, and the southeastern region of the Amazon basin. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forest and subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest.

Black curassow

The black curassow (Crax alector), also known as the smooth-billed curassow and the crested curassow, is a species of bird in the family Cracidae, the chachalacas, guans, and curassows. It is found in humid forests in northern South America in Colombia, Venezuela, the Guianas and far northern Brazil. Introduced to Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Lesser Antilles. It is the only Crax curassow where the male and female cannot be separated by plumage, as both are essentially black with a white crissum (the area around the cloaca), and have a yellow (eastern part of its range) or orange-red (western part of its range) cere.

Blue-billed curassow

The blue-billed curassow (Crax alberti) or blue-knobbed curassow is a species of bird in the family Cracidae, which includes the chachalacas, guans, and curassows. They weigh between 7-8 pounds and have a herbivorous diet of fruit and greens.Like other birds, the blue-billed curassow also likes to "sing," or in this case "boom." The males have been observed puffing out their plumage, hunching over, and producing low frequency booms or growls. They sing like this in the mornings and nights. Their songs may serve to ward off rival males, attract a potential mate, or to help maintain their current pair bond with a female.It is found only in Colombia; areas of its range in the south and east are bordered by the Magdalena River. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest. It is threatened by habitat loss.


The chachalacas, guans and curassows are birds in the family Cracidae. These are species of tropical and subtropical Central and South America. The range of one species, the plain chachalaca, just reaches southernmost parts of Texas in the United States. Two species, the Trinidad piping guan and the rufous-vented chachalaca occur on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago respectively.


Crax is a genus of curassows in the order Galliformes, a clade of large, heavy-bodied, ground-feeding birds. They are known from tropical South America with one species, the great curassow, ranging northwards through Central America as far as Mexico. The curassows in this genus are noted for their sexual dimorphism; males are more boldly coloured than females and have facial ornamentation such as knobs and wattles. They are also characterised by curly crests and contrastingly-coloured crissums (the area around the cloaca). Crax curassows probably originated as a distinct lineage during the Late Miocene. During the Messinian, the ancestral Crax split into two lineages separated by the Colombian Andes and the Cordillera de Mérida which uplifted at that time. The northern lineage radiated into the great, blue-billed, and yellow-knobbed curassows, while the four southern species evolved as they became separated by the uplifting of various mountain ranges.

Crestless curassow

The crestless curassow (Mitu tomentosum) is a species of bird in the family Cracidae. It is found in Brazil, Colombia, Guyana, and Venezuela. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest.

Great curassow

The great curassow (Crax rubra) (Spanish: hocofaisán, pavón norteño) is a large, pheasant-like bird from the Neotropical rainforests, its range extending from eastern Mexico, through Central America to western Colombia and northwestern Ecuador. Male birds are black with curly crests and yellow beaks; females come in three colour morphs, barred, rufous and black. These birds form small groups, foraging mainly on the ground for fruits and arthropods, and the occasional small vertebrate, but they roost and nest in trees. This species is monogamous, the male usually building the rather small nest of leaves in which two eggs are laid. This species is threatened by loss of habitat and hunting, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated its conservation status as "vulnerable".

Helmeted curassow

The helmeted curassow or northern helmeted curassow, (Pauxi pauxi) is a large terrestrial bird in the family Cracidae found in the subtropical cloud-forest in steep, mountainous regions of western Venezuela and northern Colombia. There are two subspecies found in different mountain ranges. It is a mostly black bird with a white tip to its tail, a red bill and a distinctive grey casque on its forehead. The population of this bird is in decline and the International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated its conservation status as "endangered".

Horned curassow

The horned curassow (Pauxi unicornis), or southern helmeted curassow, is a species of bird in the family Cracidae found in humid tropical and subtropical forests. It was first described by James Bond and Rodolphe Meyer de Schauensee in 1939 from a specimen collected in Bolivia, and further birds that were described from Peru in 1971 were thought to be a new subspecies. However, the taxonomical position (as subspecies or independent species) of the birds found in Peru in 1971 is unclear. The horned curassow as originally described is endemic to Bolivia. It is a large, predominantly black bird with a distinctive casque on its forehead. It is an uncommon bird with a limited range and is suffering from habitat loss, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated its conservation status as being "critically endangered".

Nocturnal curassow

The nocturnal curassow (Nothocrax urumutum) is a species of bird in the family Cracidae. It is found in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest and subtropical or tropical swampland.

Razor-billed curassow

The razor-billed curassow (Mitu tuberosum) is a species of bird in the family Cracidae. It is found throughout a large part of the Amazon Rainforest, though largely restricted to regions south of the Amazon River. Unlike other members of the genus Mitu, its crissum (the area around the cloaca) is deep chestnut and the tail-tip is white. The razor-billed curassow was formerly treated as a subspecies of Mitu mitu, but today this scientific name is restricted to the extremely rare Alagoas curassow.

Red-billed curassow

The red-billed curassow or red-knobbed curassow (Crax blumenbachii) is an endangered species of cracid that is endemic to lowland Atlantic Forest in the states of Espírito Santo, Bahia and Minas Gerais in southeastern Brazil. Its population is decreasing due to hunting and deforestation, and it has possibly been extirpated from Minas Gerais. It is currently being reintroduced to Rio de Janeiro by means of individuals bred in captivity. As suggested by its common name, the male has a largely red bill, but this is lacking in the female.

Salvin's curassow

The Salvin's curassow (Mitu salvini) is a species of bird in the family Cracidae. It is found in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest.

A prized game bird, the Salvin's curassow is declining throughout the human-inhabited areas of its range, which also includes Colombia and eastern Ecuador. But the turkey-size bird seems to be doing well in areas without hunting pressures.

Sibley-Monroe checklist 1

The Sibley-Monroe checklist was a study of birds conducted by Charles Sibley and Burt Monroe. It drew on extensive DNA-DNA hybridisation studies to reassess the relationships between modern birds.

The Sibley-Monroe assignment of individual species to families, and of families to orders remains controversial however. Critics maintain that while it marks a great leap forward so far as the evidence from DNA-DNA hybridisation goes, it pays insufficient attention to other forms of evidence, both molecular and on a larger scale. There is no true consensus, but the broad middle-ground position is that the Sibley-Monroe classification, overall, is "about 80% correct". Research and debate concerning bird classification continue.

There are 9,994 species on the checklist, which is begun below and continues in several parts.

Sira curassow

The Sira curassow (Pauxi koepckeae) is a species of bird in the family Cracidae. It is found in the Cerros del Sira in central Peru. Its natural habitat is tropical, moist, montane cloud forest.It was first discovered in 1969, when a male and female were recovered (unfortunately the female specimen was accidentally eaten), and was not recorded by scientists again until 2000 and 2003, when local Asháninka people were shown pictures of the birds and respectively 1 and 14 people recalled having seen or hunted them in the past few years.The name 'Sira curassow' was proposed as a new English common name in 2011 by Gastañaga et al. to replace the previous 'horned curassow', in 2012 this proposal was adopted by most of her colleagues. In the Asháninka language of the area the bird is known as quiyuri according to Weske & Terborgh [1971], piyori according to the report 'Nombres Asháninka de las Aves en la Cordillera el Sira' by González [1998], or piuri according to Gastañaga [2005].

Trinidad piping guan

The Trinidad piping guan (Pipile pipile) locally known as the pawi, is a bird in the chachalaca, guan and curassow family Cracidae, endemic to the island of Trinidad. It is a large bird, somewhat resembling a turkey in appearance, and research has shown that its nearest living relative is the blue-throated piping guan from South America. It is a mainly arboreal species feeding mostly on fruit, but also on flowers and leaves. At one time abundant, it has declined in numbers and been extirpated from much of its natural range and the International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated the bird as "critically endangered".

Wattled curassow

The wattled curassow (Crax globulosa) is a threatened member of the family Cracidae, the curassows, guans, and chachalacas. It is found in remote rainforests in the western Amazon basin in South America. Males have black plumage, except for a white crissum (the area around the cloaca), with curly feathers on the head and red bill ornaments and wattles. Females and juveniles are similar but lack the bill ornamentation and have a reddish-buff crissum area. The wattled curassow is the most ancient lineage of the southern Crax curassows. In captivity, it sometimes hybridises with the blue-billed curassow.

The habitat of the wattled curassow is gallery forests and seasonally-flooded forests where it feeds in small groups on the ground. The diet is largely fruit, but invertebrates and some small vertebrates are opportunistically taken. Little is known of its breeding habits, but it is known that the nest is built of sticks and leaves and two eggs are usually laid. The population of this species is declining. It is threatened by loss of habitat, as the rainforest is progressively cleared, and by hunting, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated its conservation status as "endangered".

Yellow-knobbed curassow

The yellow-knobbed curassow (Crax daubentoni) is a large species of bird found in forest and woodland in Colombia and Venezuela. It feeds mainly on the ground, but flies up into trees if threatened. Its most striking features are its crest, made of feathers that curl forward, and the fleshy yellow knob at the base of its bill. Females lack this fleshy yellow knob, but otherwise resemble the male in the plumage, being overall black with a white crissum (the area around the cloaca). The adult is 84-92.5 cm (33–37 in) and weighs about 2–3 kg (4.4-6.6 lbs). It eats fruits, leaves, seeds, and small animals. Unlike most other gamebirds, curassows nest off the ground, with both sexes helping in the construction. The female lays just 2 eggs - a tiny clutch compared to those of many ground-nesting gamebirds.

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