Red-billed curassow (Crax blumenbachii)

Also known as: Blumenbach’s curassow, mutum
Spanish: Muitú Mamaco, Pavón Piquirrojo
GenusCrax (1)
SizeLength: c. 84 cm (2)
Weightc. 3.5 kg (2)

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

This typically-coloured curassow, with glossy black plumage, white vent, and long black curly crest, can be identified by the conspicuous reddish-orange knob above the bill and large wattles below, for which it earns its common name (4) (5). In the female, the white areas of the male are replaced with deep cinnamon-rufous, the black crest is shorter and barred with white, the wings are vermiculated with rufous, and the bill lacks the distinctive red wattles of the male (4) (5). Calls include a low woop when foraging, and eeee-oooo when disturbed (4).

This Brazilian endemic was formerly widespread across the east of the country, but has now vanished from most of this range, being largely confined to four or five reserves, with strongholds in Sooretama Biological Reserve and the adjacent Linhares Forest Reserve in Espírito Santo (4).

A largely terrestrial bird found in tall, humid forest with rich undergrowth, although also frequenting more open spaces such as river banks, small floodplains and forest tracks (2) (4). This lowland species occurs up to around 500 m above sea level (2).

The red-billed curassow spends most of its time on the ground where it forages for food, usually in pairs or small family groups of up to four birds (2). Foods taken include fallen fruits, tender leaves, seeds, buds and insects (2) (4).

The main breeding season is from September to October, when the males’ booming calls can most often be heard, with chicks hatching over the next few months (4). Although polygamous behaviour has been observed, this may be the result of uneven hunting pressure between the sexes (2) (4). The nest is a platform of twigs and sticks, placed in a tree between two and six metres above the ground, into which one to four, typically two, eggs are laid and incubated for 28 days (2) (4). A female attains sexual maturity in her second or third year, and remains fertile for at least 11 years (2).

The red-billed curassow has suffered from habitat loss and hunting, and is now thought to be on the brink of extinction, with fewer than 250 individuals estimated to remain in small, fragmented subpopulations. Virtually all lowland forest north of Rio de Janeiro has disappeared outside of reserves, having been converted to plantations and pastureland. Even in Monte Pascoal National Park, habitat loss continues as a result of conflicts over the land rights of local people. Hunting and capture for the bird trade persist in some reserves and are likely to have a severe impact on such small, fragmented populations (4).

This rare bird is protected under Brazilian law and listed on Appendix I of CITES, making international trade in the species illegal. Of the few reserves where this species can still be found, Sooretama and Linhares are the most effectively protected, and contain strongholds of over 60 and 100 individuals respectively (4). A captive-breeding and reintroduction programme in a number of protected sites in 1990 and 1991 has been highly successful, helping to boost numbers in the wild, but the total population nevertheless remains extremely small (2) (4). If this large and distinctive forest bird is to survive, it is imperative that all reserves with known populations are vigilantly patrolled and protected to prevent the hunting and trapping that continue to threaten its existence (4).

For more information on the red-billed curassow see:

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:

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2006)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1994) Handbook of the Birds of the World - New World Vultures To Guineafowl. Vol. 2. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. CITES (May, 2006)
  4. BirdLife International (August, 2006)
  5. World Association for Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) (August, 2006)