Blue-billed curassow (Crax alberti)

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Blue-billed curassow standing in habitat
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Blue-billed curassow fact file

Blue-billed curassow description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderGalliformes
FamilyCracidae
GenusCrax (1)

The blue-billed curassow is the most threatened cracid species in the world and amongst the most endangered of all birds (4). This large, mainly black species is the only curassow with a distinctive blue cere and wattles, earning the bird its common name (2) (5). The male is black with a white vent and tip to the tail, and the feathers on the crest are distinctively curled. Females are black with black-and-white crest feathers, and fine white barring on the wings and tail (2). A rare barred variety of females has been recorded on the northern slope of the Santa Marta Mountains, which also has black-and-white barring on its breast and upper belly, as well as more white plumage on its crest (5). The lower belly and undertail of females are a rufous colour (2).

Also known as
Blue-knobbed curassow.
Spanish
Pavón Piquiazul.
Size
Size: 83 – 93 cm (2)
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Blue-billed curassow biology

The blue-billed curassow feeds mainly on the ground (5), consuming fruit, shoots, invertebrates and perhaps even carrion (2). All cracids are largely monogamous and live in pairs, although some males have been observed with two or three mates (6). Breeding occurs in the dry season, with nesting extending from December to March, and parties of adults and chicks have been observed from March to August (2) (6).

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Blue-billed curassow range

The blue-billed curassow is confined to a few remnant forest patches of Northern Colombia (5).

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Blue-billed curassow habitat

The blue-billed curassow inhabits humid tropical forests in lowlands, foothills and lower mountain slopes, up to 1,200 m above sea level, but more commonly below 600 m (5).

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Blue-billed curassow status

The blue-billed curassow is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed under Appendix III of CITES in Colombia (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered

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Blue-billed curassow threats

The blue-billed curassow has been dramatically impacted by the rapid rate of deforestation across its range due to the expansion of agriculture, cattle farming, mining activities, logging operations and human population growth (2) (6). The loss of habitat has been so extensive that little now remains (2). Additionally, this species is prized by hunters, and is particularly vulnerable during the breeding season because of the conspicuous vocalisations performed by the males, making them easy to locate. At this time, the eggs are also taken from the nests to incubate and rear for trade and consumption (6). Sadly, loss and fragmentation of habitat only serves to facilitate easier access to the bird for poachers (2).

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Blue-billed curassow conservation

South America’s newest nature reserve, Reserva Natural El Paujil, was established in 2004 by the Colombian bird conservation NGO, Fundación ProAves (2) (7). It is in the Serranía de las Quinchas, the sole surviving block of Magdalena Valley Humid Forest. The reserve, which is named after the local name for this species, El Paujil, is a major refuge for threatened endemic species and is thought to contain the most significant surviving population of the blue-billed curassow (7). Penalties have been introduced here for shooting or trapping species (2), and ProAves is planning to purchase a further 5,000 ha of forest adjoining the reserve (7). Other reserves also exist, such as the Bajo Cauca-Nechí Regional Reserve, which has been recently declared and probably holds this species, and the vast Paramillo National Park, but no protective measures have been implemented here (2).

A captive breeding programme has been established by Fundación Ecolombia in the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre Los Farallones, although this has so far been unsuccessful. Thus, artificial insemination is being considered as an option for improving results (8). Breeding in captivity has been successful in collections elsewhere (5), however, and certainly provides a viable method of conserving this critically endangered species, with the hope that such birds can someday be released back into their newly protected habitat in the wild.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For more information on the blue-billed curassow see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Cere
In birds, an area of skin at the base of the upper mandible surrounding the nostrils.
Cracid
Species belonging to the cracidae family.
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Monogamy
Mating with a single partner.
Wattles
Bare fleshy skin that hangs from the bill, throat or eye of birds.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2006)
    http://www.redlist.org
  2. BirdLife International (April, 2006)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=104&m=0
  3. CITES (April, 2006)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. bp conservation programme projects - Saving the Blue-Billed Curassow: Implementing Urgent Conservation Actions (April, 2006)
    http://conservation.bp.com/projects/F500505_proj.asp
  5. del Hoyo, J., Elliot, A. and Sargatal, J. (1992) Handbook of Birds of the World, Volume 2 - New World vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  6. Escuela de Ingenieria de Antioquia (April, 2006)
    http://biologia.eia.edu.co/ecologia/estudiantes/pajuil.htm
  7. BirdLife International: Curassow reserve is a model of local-meets-global conservation (April, 2006)
    http://www.birdlife.org/news/features/2004/07/curassow.html
  8. South Lakes Wild Animal Park: Fundación Ecolombia: An Integral Approach to Fighting Illegal Traffic of Fauna in Colombia (April, 2006)
    http://www.wildanimalpark.co.uk/conservation/ecolombia/fundaci%C3%B3n_ecolombia.htm
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Image credit

Blue-billed curassow standing in habitat  
Blue-billed curassow standing in habitat

© Fundación ProAves / www.proaves.org

Alonso Quevedo
Projects Coordinator
Threatened Parrots of Colombia
Central Andes
Blue-billed Curassow
Colombia
Tel: +57 (1) 2455134
aquevedo@proaves.org
http://www.proaves.org

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