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Black Curassow Crax alector
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Based on a model of future deforestation in the Amazon basin, and its susceptibility to hunting and trapping, it is suspected that the population of this species will decline rapidly over the next three generations, and it has therefore been uplisted to Vulnerable.

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.
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #

85-95 cm. Large, mostly black cracid. Uniform black aside from white vent. Crest shorter and less dense than in other species of Crax. Lacks bill knob and wattles. Grey legs. Female almost identical to male but with a few narrow white bars on crest. Voice Low humming or booming umm-um... umm, um-um. Hints Most often seen in pairs or small groups.

Distribution and population
Crax alector is found in north-central South America. Subspecies erythrognatha occurs to the west. In east Colombia it is locally abundant along the east Andes and Macarena Mountains, where it has been considered the most common large bird at an estimated density of 1/1.25 ha of forest. It also occurs in southern Venezuela. The nominate subspecies alector is found in the east. At its westernmost point, in Cerro de la Neblina, east Venezuela, it was considered much less common than another cracid, Razor-billed Curassow Mitu tuberosum, in 1991. Its range extends from there eastwards through Guyana, where it is common only where there is intact habitat and no hunting, and beyond. In Suriname it was considered common in 1968, but is only locally so now (del Hoyo et al. 1994, Restall et al. 2006); in French Guiana it is subject to heavy hunting pressure and in danger of extirpation. It has already been driven from areas around human settlement, but does exist at optimal density (8/100 ha) in areas in the south of the country. The taxon's range also extends to north Brazil, where it is fairly common in Amapá, northern Roraima, around Manaus and in Pico de Neblina National Park (del Hoyo et al. 1994).

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

Trend justification
This species is suspected to lose 15.1-24.4% of suitable habitat within its distribution over three generations (35 years) based on a model of Amazonian deforestation (Soares-Filho et al. 2006, Bird et al. 2011). Given the susceptibility of the species to hunting and/or trapping, it is therefore suspected to decline by ≥30% over three generations.

It inhabits humid "terra firme" (without flooding) and gallery forest, often being seen in open habitats such as old plantations, but preferring thickets along rivers or forest borders. It appears limited to primary forest in French Guiana. The species is generally restricted to lowlands and foothills up to 1,700 m. It feeds predominantly (c.95%) on fruits, most importantly of the genera Eugenia and Guarea, but will also take leaves, buds, shoots, invertebrates, flowers and mushrooms. Breeding times are variable, tending to be limited to the rainy season (December to April) in Suriname, but young have been recorded in March and September in French Guiana, and a breeding-condition female in January in Colombia. The nest is a small platform made of sticks, built in trees c.5 m above the ground (del Hoyo et al. 1994).

Accelerating deforestation in the Amazon constitutes the primary threat to this species (Soares-Filho et al. 2006, Bird et al. 2011). It is also susceptible to hunting and trapping, particularly in French Guiana (del Hoyo et al. 1992, A. Lees in litt. 2011).

Conservation Actions Underway
None is known.

Conservation Actions Proposed

Expand the protected area network to effectively protect IBAs. Effectively resource and manage existing and new protected areas, utilising emerging opportunities to finance protected area management with the joint aims of reducing carbon emissions and maximizing biodiversity conservation. Conservation on private lands, through expanding market pressures for sound land management and preventing forest clearance on lands unsuitable for agriculture, is also essential (Soares-Filho et al. 2006). Campaign against proposed changes to the Brazilian Forest Code that would lead to a decrease in the width of the areas of riverine forest protected as Permanent Preservation Areas (APPs), which function as vital corridors in fragmented landscapes.

Bird, J. P.; Buchanan, J. M.; Lees, A. C.; Clay, R. P.; Develey, P. F.; Yépez, I.; Butchart, S. H. M. 2011. Integrating spatially explicit habitat projections into extinction risk assessments: a reassessment of Amazonian avifauna incorporating projected deforestation. Diversity and Distributions: doi: 10.1111/j.1472-4642.2011.00843.x.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1994. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Restall, R.; Rodner, C.; Lentino, M. 2006. Birds of northern South America: an identification guide. Volume 1: species accounts. Christopher Helm, London.

Soares-Filho, B.S.; Nepstad, D.C.; Curran, L.M.; Cerqueira, G.C.; Garcia, R. A.; Ramos, C. A.; Voll, E.; McDonald, A.; Lefebvre, P.; Schlesinger, P. 2006. Modelling conservation in the Amazon basin. Nature 440(7083): 520-523.

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

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
Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Khwaja, N., Symes, A.

Lees, A.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Taylor, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Crax alector. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016.

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 curassow (Crax alector) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Cracidae (Guans, Chachalacas, Curassows)
Species name author Linnaeus, 1766
Population size Unknown mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 2,100,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species