The Great Curassow, Crax rubra is a large, black pheasant-like bird with a yellow knob on its bill, curly black feather crests, and white below. They are the largest members of the family Cracidae, at 90 cm (36 in) and a weight of 4.7 kg (10.4 lbs). There are three morphs of female Great Curassows: Barred morph females with a vermiculated white head and neck, the red morph with a vermiculated black head and reddish brown plumage, and dark morph female with a black head and blackish brown plumage.
A monogamous species, the Great Curassow is distributed in rainforest from eastern Mexico throughout Central America, to western Colombia and northwest Ecuador. Its diet consists mainly of fruits, figs and arthropods.
Paleontology history of Great Curassow
The Great Curassow is the most northernly Crax species. It is part of a clade that inhabited the north of South America since about 9 mya . As the Colombian Andes were uplifted around 6 mya, this species' ancestors were cut off from the population to their southeast. The latter would in time evolve into the Blue-billed Curassow. The ancestral Great Curassows then spread along the Pacific side of the Andes, and into Central America during the Pliocene and Pleistocene.(Pereira & Baker 2004)
Due to ongoing habitat lost and overhunting in some areas, the Great Curassow is evaluated as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is listed on Appendix III of CITES in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Colombia and Honduras. Of the subspecies griscomi of Cozumel Island with its distinct female, only a few hundred remain. Its population seems either to have been slowly increasing since the 1980s, or to be fluctuating at a low level; it is vulnerable to hurricanes.
This species has proven to produce fertile hybrids with its closest living relative the Blue-billed Curassow, and also with the much more distantly related Black Curassow (del Hoyo 1994)
Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is near threatened
del Hoyo, Josep (1994): 44. Great Curassow. In: del Hoyo, Josep; Elliott, Andrew & Sargatal, Jordi (editors) Handbook of Birds of the World, Volume 2 (New World Vultures to Guineafowl): 359, Plate 33. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. ISBN 84-87334-15-6
Pereira, Sergio Luiz & Baker, Allan J. (2004): Vicariant speciation of curassows : a hypothesis based on mitochondrial DNA phylogeny. Auk 121(3): 682-694. [English with Spanish abstract] DOI:10.1642/0004-8038(2004)121[0682:VSOCAC]2.0.CO;2 HTML abstract HTML fulltext without images
BirdLife Species Factsheet
Stamps (for British Honduras-(now Belize), El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico) with RangeMap
Great Curassow photo gallery VIREO Photo-High Res
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