Alagoas curassow (Mitu mitu)

Spanish: Paují de Alagoas, Paují Menor
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderGalliformes
FamilyCracidae
GenusMitu (1)
SizeLength: 83 - 89 cm (2)

The Alagoas curassow is classified as Extinct in the Wild (EW) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

The Alagoas curassow (Mitu mitu) was last recorded in the wild in the late 1980s and is therefore assumed to be Extinct in the Wild (3) (4) (5). It is a relatively large, black bird with a glossy blue hue to its feathers and a chestnut belly and undertail-coverts (2). The bill is large and swollen at the base, it is bright red in colour with a whitish tip and the legs and feet are also red (3). The Alagoas curassow has bare ear patches (4) (5).

The Alagoas curassow was first described in the early 17th Century, but was then unreported until 1951, when it was rediscovered in Alagoas, northeast Brazil (3) (4) (5). The last known record of this species in the wild came from an old specimen that was killed by hunters in 1984, although there are also unconfirmed hunting reports from 1987 and 1988 (6) (7).

In the wild this species used to inhabit lowland primary forest (3), over a 2,500 square kilometre range, below 400 metres above sea level (4).

Very little is known about the behaviour and ecology of the Alagoas curassow in the wild. Stomach contents examined at the time of the species' rediscovery were found to mainly contain fruits of the castelo tree (Phillanthus spp.). Birds in the wild have also been observed to eat the fruits of Eugenia (6) (8).

Knowledge of the breeding ecology of this species is even scarcer; one occupied nest was found in 1978, which was situated amongst thick foliage within a tree (6) (8). In captivity, females begin to breed at two years old and lay two to three eggs each year (3) (8).

Already rare at the time of their rediscovery in 1951, Alagoas curassows have been eliminated from the wild mainly due to deforestation in this area of Brazil (4) (5) (6). Forests were destroyed to make way for sugarcane plantations (4), the demand for which intensified in the 1970s due to a government drive to increase fuel alcohol production (3). Pesticides used in sugarcane fields had a detrimental effect on remaining forest fragments, and hunting pressure was also responsible for the loss of this species in the wild (4).

Assessments concluding that this species was extinct have been made from the 1960s onwards (4), and the Alagoas curassow is now believed to be Extinct in the Wild (2). A glimmer of hope remains for this species however, as two captive populations exist (3). These captive birds could be used in a reintroduction program provided appropriate habitat is identified and protected. A suitable 30 square kilometre area of rainforest in north-east Brazil has been proposed for a reintroduction programme but further assessment is required (3).

For more information on the Alagoas curassow:

Authenticated by BirdLife International Secretariat.
http://www.birdlife.org

  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2002)
    http://www.redlist.org
  2. Erritzoe, J. (1993) The Birds of CITES and How to Identify Them. The Lutterworth Press, Cambridge.
  3. CITES (October, 2002)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. Silveira, L.F., Olmos, F. and Long, A.J. (2004) Taxonomy, history and status of Alagoas Curassow Mitu mitu, the world's most threatened cracid. Ararajuba, 12(2) 43-50
  5. Grau, E.T., Pereira, S.L., Silveira, L.F. and Wajntal, A. (2003) Molecular markers contribute to a breeding programme of the extinct-in-the-wild Alagoas curassow Mitu mitu and confirm the validity of the species. Bird Conservation International, 13: 115-126
  6. BirdLife International (2000) Threatened Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, Barcelona and Cambridge.
  7. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sargatol, J. [eds.] (1994). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  8. Silveira, L.F., Roda, S.A., Santos, A.M.M., Soares, E.S. and Bianchi, C.A. (2007) Alagoas Curassow Conservation Action Plan. Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation, Brazil. (In Portuguese)