Penelope purpurascens (crested guan) is endemic to Central America, specifically ranging from southern Mexico to Venezuela and Ecuador (Chaves-Campos, 2003). They populate tropical and subtropical moist lowland to midland forest (about 1850 m in elevation) (Chaves-Campos, 2003).
Crested guans are about the size of pheasants, with a dark bluish face, red eyes and a red dewlap of skin beneath the pointed beak (Gilbert et al., 2013). The feathering is dark brown or black with a crest of taller feathers atop its head, and a set of long tail feathers. The crested guan is monogamous, but lives in flocks of about six to eight pairs (Gilbert et al., 2013). These birds have a diverse, generalist frugivorous diet, and are essential for seed dispersal (Brooks and Strahl, 2000, Muñoz and Kattan, 2007). They also eat some flowers and invertebrates in addition to fruit (Muñoz and Kattan, 2007). Guans are mainly arboreal, rarely leaving the canopy (Brooks and Fuller, 2006). The call of the crested guan is a loud and honk-like, and a distinct “wing-whirring” display is used during courtship, creating a fast vibrating call (Ridgely, 1989).
Crested guan abundance increases at higher elevations during the reproductive season, around June, and then the crested guans retreat to lowland when the season is over (Chaves-Campos, 2003). There is also seasonal migration related to fruit abundance (Muñoz and Kattan, 2007). This altitudinal migration is a cause for conservation concern, because forest corridors between lowland and higher elevations need to be maintained to ensure population growth and survival (Chaves-Campos, 2003).
Crested guans belong to the Cracid family (Brooks and Strahl, 2000), which are the most endangered family in the Neotropics (Brooks and Fuller, 2006). The population is in decline due to hunting and habitat loss (Muñoz and Kattan, 2007). Due to their sensitivity to environmental change, guans and other Cracids are used as ecological indicators in the Neotropics (Brooks and Strahl, 2000).
Habitat and Ecology
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Penelope purpurascens
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Penelope purpurascens
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
The crested guan (Penelope purpurascens) is a member of an ancient group of birds of the Cracidae family, which are related to the Australasian mound builders. It breeds in lowlands from south Mexico and the Yucatán Peninsula to western Ecuador and southern Venezuela at up to 1,850 m (6,070 ft) altitude.
The crested guan is an arboreal forest species. The substantial twig nest is built in a tree or stump and lined with leaves. The female lays two or three large rough-shelled white eggs and incubates them alone.
This is a large gamebird, with a length varying from 84 to 91.5 cm (33.1 to 36.0 in). These birds commonly weigh around 1,750 g (3.86 lb), though can weigh as little as 1,361 g (3.000 lb) in P. p. brunnescens, the smallest race on average. Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 33 to 42.8 cm (13.0 to 16.9 in), the tail is 34 to 41.5 cm (13.4 to 16.3 in) and the tarsus is 7.4 to 9.1 cm (2.9 to 3.6 in). It is similar in general appearance to a turkey, with a small head, long strong red legs, and a long broad tail. It is mainly dark brown, with white spotting on the neck and breast. The rump and belly are rufous. The head sports a bushy crest, from which the species gets its name, blue-grey bare skin around the eye, and a bare red dewlap or wattle.
The sexes are similar, but young birds have black vermiculations and ochre specks on the body plumage.
The crested guan is a noisy bird with a loud plee or quonk call, a whistled contact call and a powerful keLEEEErrrr! dawn song.
The range of this species has severely contracted outside remote or protected forests due to deforestation and hunting.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Penelope purpurascens". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Birds of Peru: Revised and Updated Edition - Thomas S. Schulenberg, Douglas F. Stotz, Daniel F. Lane, John P. O'Neill, Theodore A. Parker III - Google Books. Books.google.com. 2010-05-24. Retrieved 2012-08-30.
- Curassows, Guans and Chachalacas by Nigel Hughes. Wildside Books (UK). 2006, ISBN 0905062264