Northern helmeted curassow (Pauxi pauxi)

Male northern helmeted curassow, dorsal view
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Northern helmeted curassow fact file

Northern helmeted curassow description

GenusPauxi (1)

This large and unusual-looking bird is named for the bizarre bluish-grey fig-shaped casque on its forehead (2) (4). The plumage is predominantly black, with a greenish and bluish gloss to the mantle and breast, while the belly, under-tail coverts and tail tip are a contrasting snowy white, and the bill and legs are a conspicuous coral red (2). Although the sexes are usually alike, there is a rare morph of the female that has rufous-brown and black barred plumage (2) (4). Males are larger than females, but both are robust and strong (5).

Also known as
Helmeted curassow.
Paují Copete de Piedra, Paují de Yelmo.
Length: 91 cm (2)

Northern helmeted curassow biology

Pairs or small family groups tend to be observed foraging together during the day, mainly on the forest floor, for fallen fruit, seeds, tender leaves, grasses, buds, and small vertebrates and invertebrates (2) (4) (7). However, the birds will seek refuge in trees if alarmed, and like most birds, they roost in trees at night (4).

The northern helmeted curassow has a curious courtship ritual. The male attempts to attract a female with an offering of food held in his beak. By coming to the male and accepting the food, the female demonstrates a willingness to mate (5). This species of curassow nests in March and usually two young hatch around mid-May (2) (5). The chicks are fed by their parents until they learn to eat from the ground (5).


Northern helmeted curassow range

The northern helmeted curassow is found on the eastern Andes of west Venezuela and neighbouring north-east Colombia (2) (6).


Northern helmeted curassow habitat

This species is confined to subtropical cloud-forest in steep, mountainous regions between 500 and 2,200 metres (mostly 1,000 to 1,500 metres) above sea level (2), where it favours humid gorges with plenty of undergrowth and avoids forest edges (2) (6).


Northern helmeted curassow status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix II of CITES in Colombia (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered


Northern helmeted curassow threats

The northern helmeted curassow has undergone a relatively rapid decline as the result of indiscriminate hunting and long-term destruction, fragmentation and alteration of its habitat (2). Sadly, wherever curassows occur, they tend to be considered prime game species, due to their large size and succulent flesh (4). This species has also, at least formerly, been illegally hunted for use of its bony casque to make traditional jewellery (2) (6). Essential forest habitat has been destroyed in both Venezuela and Colombia for conversion into cattle ranches at lower altitudes and for narcotics cultivation higher up (2). Furthermore, opening up of forest habitat to human development only serves to increase the bird’s vulnerability to the pressures of hunting, and the limited range and low reproductive rate of this species only compound such threats (4).


Northern helmeted curassow conservation

Almost all remaining forests in northern Venezuela are now legally protected and records of this rare bird exist from 18 national parks, but this has failed to safeguard it from the threat of poachers, which continue to illegally hunt it within these areas (2) (6). The situation is worse in Colombia, with the species being recorded within only one ‘protected area’, El Cocuy National Park, Arauca, which is also ineffectively protected (2). This rare curassow is legally protected in Venezuela and an education programme has been established to raise awareness of the plight of the bird and its habitat (2). Captive breeding and reintroduction of the bird have also been proposed for Venezuela, as a means of restoring natural populations where they have declined (2) (7). However, until legislation against hunting is strictly enforced, and national parks are adequately protected, reintroduced individuals may have a poor chance of survival. Thus, conservation efforts should focus on protecting existing populations, and the ever diminishing habitat on which they rely.

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

Find out more

For more information on the northern helmeted curassow see:

BirdLife International:



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:



A helmet-like structure or protuberance.
Small feathers concealing the bases of larger primary feathers, usually on the wings or tail.
In birds, the wings, shoulder feathers and back, when coloured differently from the rest of the body.
One of two or more distinct types of a given species, often distinct colour forms, which occur in the same population at the same time (that is, are not geographical or seasonal variations).


  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2009)
  2. BirdLife International (June, 2006)
  3. CITES (June, 2006)
  4. Houston Zoo (June, 2006)
  5. The Big Zoo (June, 2006)
  6. ZoologicalMuseum of the University of Amsterdam (June, 2006)
  7. Proyecto de reproducción y reintroducción del paujil copete de piedra (Pauxi pauxi) (June, 2006)

Image credit

Male northern helmeted curassow, dorsal view  
Male northern helmeted curassow, dorsal view

© Kenneth W. Fink /

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