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Spix's guan (Penelope jacquacu) is a fairly large bird, rather bigger than a chicken, and a bit smaller than a turkey, about 3 feet from head to tail. The relatively long neck has fine white streaks, down to the breast, while the bare throat is coral red (as are the legs). The tail is also long, colored glossy green like the primary wing feathers. The facial area lacks feathers around the eye, exposing bluish skin. Spix's Guan is named after a 19th century German explorer who spent three years collecting plants and animals in Brazil. (See Wikipedia: Johann Baptist von Spix.)

This bird is related to other birds such as chachalacas and currasows, in the family Cracidae, which is known mainly from the New World tropics. In Amazonia four species of cracids may coexist in the same area.

This species inhabits tropical lowland rainforest east of the Andes to eastern Brazil and south to Bolivia. They prefer humid forest, but adapt well to less densely forested areas such as edges of woodlands and in clearings with scattered trees. The birds usually roam singly or in pairs, but not in groups, keeping to the mid-canopy and rarely come to the ground.

The guans and other cracids feed primarily on plant matter, such as fruits, young leaves and shoots and seeds.

Spix's guan relies on noise during its mating displays. Its main display comprises wing rattling and a loud raucuous crowing, just before dawn and at dusk. Steven Hilty in Birds of Colombia likens the sound to the distant howling of a dog—quite unlike a bird! They nest in trees, about 15 feet up, in nests made mostly of leaves. Guans lay three to four eggs.

Population numbers for this species are unavailable but, due to its adaptability to disturbance, it is likely not threatened at this time. The IUCN Red Book lists the species status as Least Concern.


IUCN: Penelope jacquacu
Manual of Neotropical Birds: Penelope jacquacu
Mee, A. et al. 2005. Observations of parrots at a geophagy site in Bolivia. Biota Neotropica 5 (2): 321-324

Cracid Specialist Group
Cracidae Peru Association
Wikipedia: Cracidae Cracidae

Mainly photos
Flickr: Penelope jacquacu
Mongabay: Spix's Guan, Penelope jacquacu, on clay lick
Mangoverde: Spix's Guan Penelope jacquacu
Wikipedia Image: Penelope jacquacu Spix's Guan
Spix's Guan (Penelope jacquacu)
Internet Bird Collection: Penelope jacquacu (videos)

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