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Black Guan Chamaepetes unicolor
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species is listed as Near Threatened because it occupies a small range, in which it is threatened by hunting and limited habitat loss and degradation. The proliferation of protected areas in Costa Rica and Panama is likely to have reduced the threats to this species's habitat. However, if these threats prove to be serious, the species may be uplisted to a higher threat category.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

64 cm. Short-tailed glossy black cracid. Overall glossy black, sootier below. Bare blue facial skin with red iris. Coral red legs. Immature duller and sootier. Voice Mostly silent. In breeding season gives soft low piping calls at dawn. Also low kowr when startled and tsik tsik alarm call. Wings rattle when flying between trees. Hints Forages singly, in pairs or small groups, mostly in trees but sometimes on the ground.

Distribution and population
Chamaepetes unicolor is rare to locally fairly common throughout the highlands of Costa Rica and in Chiriquí, Bocas del Toro, Veraguas (Calovévora and Sante Fe) and west Coclé, west Panama (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989, Stiles and Skutch 1989). It is common (estimated density of 7.4 birds/km2) in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, Costa Rica (D. Brooks in litt. 2000), and large areas of suitable habitat are protected in La Amistad International Park and the Cordillera de Guanacaste (F. G. Stiles in litt. 1999). This suggests that the 1994 population estimate of 800-1,000 birds in Costa Rica (Strahl et al. 1994) is too low. In Panama, it was reported as locally common in the 1930s, uncommon and local in 1971 (del Hoyo 1994), and rare to locally fairly common (e.g. in Fortuna Forest Reserve) in the 1980s (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989). The species was found to be fairly common at Cerro Pena Blanca, west of El Cope, in 2001 (G. Angehr in litt. 2005).

Population justification
The global population size has not been quantified, but this species is described as 'fairly common' (Stotz et al. (1996).

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction and unsustainable levels of exploitation.

This frugivore inhabits montane cloud forest, preferring steep terrain with ridges and ravines (Wheelwright et al. 1984, Ridgely and Gwynne 1989, Stiles and Skutch 1989). It typically occurs at elevations of 900-2,250 m but has been recorded to 450 m (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989). In Panama, young birds have been seen in February and June, and pairing has been observed to begin in March in Costa Rica, with both very young chicks and almost full-grown young seen in July (del Hoyo 1994). It lays 2-3 eggs (del Hoyo 1994).

This species is much hunted for food (del Hoyo 1994). Highland forests have suffered burning, logging and conversion to intensive agriculture (Dinerstein et al. 1995), and in east Chiriquí only isolated patches of forest remain above 1,000 m (W. J. Adsett in litt. 1993). However, the extent of fragmentation is less than in lowland areas and, where not hunted for food, it persists in forest edge and secondary growth adjacent to undisturbed forest (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989, Strahl et al. 1994, F. G. Stiles in litt. 1999). In Panama a belt of nearly continuous forest remains along the cordillera from the Costa Rican border to just east of El Cope, although continuity may be lost in future.

Conservation Actions Underway
This species occurs in numerous protected areas, including private reserves. Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys to obtain an up-to-date total population estimate. Monitor population trends through regular surveys. Monitor rates of habitat loss and degradation across its range. Assess whether hunting is still a serious threat, and in which areas it is most severe. Protect remaining substantial tracts of cloud forest. Encourage the restoration of cloud forests, especially to link remaining fragments.

del Hoyo, J. 1994. Cracidae (Chachalacas, Guans and Curassows). In: del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. (ed.), Handbook of the birds of the world, pp. 310-363. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Dinerstein, E.; Olson, D. M.; Graham, D. J.; Webster, A. L.; Primm, S. A.; Bookbinder, M. P.; Ledec, G. 1995. A conservation assesssment of the terrestrial ecoregions of Latin America and the Caribbean. World Bank, Washington, D.C.

Ridgely, R. S.; Gwynne, J. A. 1989. A guide to the birds of Panama with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Stiles, F.G. and Skutch, A.F. 1989. A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY.

Stotz, D. F.; Fitzpatrick, J. W.; Parker, T. A.; Moskovits, D. K. 1996. Neotropical birds: ecology and conservation. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Strahl, S.; Ellis, S.; Byers, O.; Plasse, C. 1994. Conservation assessment and management plan for Neotropical guans, curassows, and chachalacas. International Union for Nature Conservation and Natural Resources, Apple Valley, USA.

Wheelwright, N.T., Haber, W.A., Murray, K.G. and Guindon, C. 1984. Tropical fruit-eating birds and their food plants: a survey of a Costa Rican lower montane forest. Biotropica 16: 173-192.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Capper, D., Keane, A., Sharpe, C J, Stuart, T., Taylor, J.

Adsett, W., Angehr, G., Brooks, D., Stiles, F.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Chamaepetes unicolor. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Black guan (Chamaepetes unicolor) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Cracidae (Guans, Chachalacas, Curassows)
Species name author Salvin, 1867
Population size Unknown mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 15,600 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species