IUCN threat status:

Least Concern (LC)

Comprehensive Description

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Comprehensive Description

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).


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