Black-fronted piping-guan (Pipile jacutinga)

Also known as: White-crested piping-guan
Synonyms: Aburria jacutinga
Spanish: Pava Yacutinga, Yacutingá Frentinegra
GenusPipile (1)
SizeLength: 63 – 74 cm (2)
Weight1.1 – 1.4 kg (2)

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

This peculiar bird of South America has a large red throat wattle with a blue base and a ring of bare bluish skin around the eyes. The feathers are mainly black, including on the forehead. The neck and upper breast feathers are edged with white and the wings are each decorated with a large, white patch. The crown and nape are white, the bill is pale blue with a black tip, and the legs are red. The black-fronted piping-guan calls with a soft whistle (4).

The black-fronted piping-guan is endemic to the Atlantic forest of southeast Brazil, northeast Argentina and southeast Paraguay (2). Having once been widespread and common throughout this range, it has now been lost from most sites and is now found only where it is relatively protected from hunting (2) (5).

The black-fronted piping-guan inhabits Atlantic forest in both coastal and inland regions, up to 1,800 metres above sea level. It appears to be associated with rivers and streams and in some areas favours forests with a high proportion of palmito (Euterpe edulis) (2) (4).

Although the black-fronted piping-guan is thought of as a fruit-eater, it has opportunistic feeding habits, taking insects and molluscs where possible, as well as seeds, grains and buds. In some areas, the vast majority of its diet comes from the fruit of the palmito (Euterpe edulis) but also from figs (Ficus), araçazeiros (Psidium), bicuiba (Virola), pindaúba (Xylopia), and guarumo (Cecropia) plants. It is also thought to ingest mud as a means of taking in salt (2) (4).

In common with other guan species, the black-fronted piping-guan is found alone or in groups of up to five, but it is known to be territorial to outsiders, shaking its wings in display and creating a machine-like rattle. The groups break off into pairs for the breeding season, building a platform-like nest of twigs in a tree-fork. During September up to four eggs are laid by the female and these are incubated for about 28 days. Chicks are seen in October and November but little is known of the parental care they receive or their dispersal once fledged (2).

In some places, this species makes some seasonal movements, partly in response to the fruiting of the palmito which ripens first at lower altitudes and later in the year at higher altitudes. Parents are known to move on shortly after nesting, but whether the chicks accompany them is unclear (2).

The black-fronted piping-guan is one of the most prized game birds of the Atlantic forest. Although it is illegal to hunt this species, remaining populations are threatened by poaching, even in protected areas. Compounding the threat of hunting is the impact of habitat loss (2) (4). 90 percent of the Atlantic forest has already been cleared, leaving little habitat for the black-fronted piping-guan (5). Remaining forest patches are under threat from legal and illegal conversion to agriculture and the construction of hydro-electric dams (2) (4).

The black-fronted piping-guan is protected by law in Brazil but this has little impact on the rate of poaching there. Similarly, it is found in several state parks and reserves including Urugua-í Provincial Park and Iguazú National Park, both in Misiones, but the security offered by these has had little effect on bolstering the species’ numbers. There are several captive breeding programmes which have had some success, but reintroduction has so far been unsuccessful. Awareness campaigns and the enforcement of anti-poaching measures seem to be the best hope for this species, with regular surveying to follow its progress (2) (4).

For further information on the conservation of the black-fronted piping-guan see:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:

Authenticated (03/10/08) by Kristina Cockle, Proyecto Selva de Pino Parana, San Pedro, Misiones.

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)