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Rufous-headed Chachalaca Ortalis erythroptera
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species has a small and contracting range, affected by rapid habitat loss and severe fragmentation. Its population is suspected to be small and declining, owing to the effects of hunting and habitat destruction. This combination of factors results in classification as 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: #

56-66 cm. Small, brownish, arboreal cracid. Rufous head and neck, brown upperparts, rufous primaries and tips to outer rectrices, belly becoming whitish, red dewlap. Voice Song repeated, raucous kwak-ar-ar, cha-cha-kaw or shriller kra-kra-ka phrases; alarm calls guan-like honking and yelping calls.

Distribution and population
Ortalis erythroptera is largely confined to the Tumbesian region of west Ecuador, in Esmeraldas, Manabí, Guayas, Los Ríos, Chimborazo, Azuay (P. Coopmans in litt. 1998), El Oro and Loja; extreme north-west Peru, in Tumbes and Piura (Barrio and Begazo 1998), and extreme south-west Colombia, in Nariño (Strewe 2001). In the last decade, a new population was discovered in humid and wet areas of eastern Esmeraldas, mostly along the major river systems where forest cover is severely fragmented (O. Jahn in litt. 2007, P. Mena Valenzuela in litt. 2007). At this moment, it is unclear whether this population was previously overlooked or if it represents a recent expansion of the species's range. Although it is possible that the chachalaca temporarily benefits from forest fragmentation in that area, deforestation rates in Esmeraldas are so high that almost total deforestation might occur within one or two decades (O. Jahn in litt. 2007, P. Mena Valenzuela in litt. 2007).

Population justification
A new population has been discovered in eastern Esmeraldas, Ecuador, which, judging by the area of potentially available habitat, may hold one of the world's largest subpopulations. However, population densities are usually low, and the population there is currently estimated at only 500-1,000 birds (O. Jahn in litt. 2007, P. Mena Valenzuela in litt. 2007). Its historical range to the south is now extremely fragmented, with viable populations restricted to only a few locations and probably maintaining less than 5,000 individuals. The population is thought to be best placed in the band 2,500-9,999 individuals, based on density estimates and the species's Extent of Occurrence. This equates to 1,667-6,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 1,500-7,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
A moderate and on-going population decline is suspected on the basis of continued habitat destruction and fragmentation.

It inhabits dry, deciduous woodland, lowland riparian forest, humid lowland forest, lower montane cloud-forest, forest edge, degraded forest habitats, scrub, and occasionally agricultural land at elevations up to 1,850 m, although there are few recent Peruvian records below 1,000 m (Pople et al. 1997, Barrio and Begazo 1998, Isherwood and Willis 1998, Strewe 2001). It has been observed eating leaves, coffee berries and banana fruits (Isherwood and Willis 1998, Barrio and Díaz 2006). The species is supposedly monogamous and breeding probably occurs during the wet season (between December and May). Clutch sizes average three chicks (Barrio and Díaz 2006).

In west Ecuador, forest cover below 900 m was reduced from 63% (of 1938 cover) in 1958, to less than 8% in 1988 (Dodson and Gentry 1991). In higher parts of its range, deforestation has been slower, and a greater proportion of forest remains (Best and Kessler 1995, J. Hornbuckle in litt. 1999). In Esmeraldas, annual deforestation rates of lowland evergreen forest were 3.8% and accumulated loss of primary forest 38% in the last decade (Cárdenas 2007). The Mache-Chindul Ecological Reserve is increasingly affected by illegal logging, hunting, and other activities (O. Jahn in litt. 2007). Colonisation and land development are progressing through infrastructural improvement, particularly the expansion of road networks, and in turn are increasing the impact of logging, cattle-ranching, oil palm planting, and in drier areas also understorey-grazing by goats and cattle (Best and Kessler 1995, Jahn in press, O. Jahn in litt. 2007). Continuing habitat loss will soon remove almost all remaining unprotected forest if effective action is not taken urgently (Best and Kessler 1995, Jahn in press, O. Jahn in litt. 2007, P. Mena Valenzuela in litt. 2007). Degradation of forest fragments through intensive grazing perhaps explains the paucity of recent records at low elevations in Peru. It is hunted in Ecuador and Peru, even within designated protected areas in the latter (Barrio and Begazo 1998, F. Angulo Pratolongo in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions Underway
Significant populations occur in Machalilla National Park (Guayas/Manabí) and the Northwest Peru Biosphere Reserve (Tumbes and Piura), but these are affected by illegal settling, hunting, livestock-grazing and habitat clearance (Parker and Carr 1992). Several other protected areas in Ecuador hold populations (Parker and Carr 1992, Best and Kessler 1995, Pople et al. 1997, Barrio and Begazo 1998, Isherwood and Willis 1998, J. F. Freile in litt. 2000), and it may occur in the lower parts of the Mache-Chindul Ecological Reserve (O. Jahn in litt. 2007) and the large Chongón-Colonche Protection Forest, which is the nucleus of a reforestation project (E. Horstman in litt. 2000). A breeding programme is being carried out by Crax Peru at a breeding centre in Olmos (V. R. Díaz Montes in litt. 2007). Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor populations. Research and manage limiting factors. Conduct research into its biology (Strahl et al. 1994). Map the forest patches of the Cordillera Chongón-Colonche to identify further sites for protection (E. Horstman in litt. 2000). Improve the effectiveness of protected areas in west Ecuador (Parker and Carr 1992). Designate the Awá Reserve, Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve, Awacachi corridor, Gran Reserva Chachi, and Canandé Reserve, including the río Santiago, Cayapas, Onzole, and Hoja Blanca drainages, as a biosphere reserve (Jahn in press, O. Jahn in litt. 2007). Consolidate protection of the Mache-Chindul Ecological Reserve through law enforcement against illegal logging, hunting, and colonisation inside the reserves and sustainable management projects in its buffer zone (O. Jahn in litt. 2007). Increase effective protection (improving capacity and infrastructure) throughout the Northwestern Peru Biosphere Reserve (encompassing Amotapes National Park and El Angolo Hunting Reserve). Reintroduce the species at suitable sites (F. Angulo Pratolongo in litt. 2012). Initiate an education programme for communities adjoining Northwestern Peru Biosphere Reserve. Continue the captive breeding programme (V. R. Díaz Montes in litt. 2007).

Barrio, J.; Begazo, A. 1998. Notes on the Rufous-headed Chachalaca (Ortalis erythroptera) in northern Peru. Bulletin of the IUCN/Birdlife/WPA Cracid Specialist Group 7: 19-22.

Barrio, J.; Díaz, V. R. 2006. Rufous-headed Chachalaca (Ortalis erythroptera). In: Brooks, D. (ed.), Conserving cracids: the most threatened family of birds in the Americas, pp. 71-72. Misc. Pub. Houston Mus. Nat. Sci.

Best, B. J.; Kessler, M. 1995. Biodiversity and conservation in Tumbesian Ecuador and Peru. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Best, B. J.; Krabbe, N. 1992-1993. A review of the status and conservation of the Rufous-headed Chachalaca. World Pheasant Association Journal 17-18: 45-56.

Cárdenas, A. 2007. Análisis multitemporal de cobertura vegetal y uso del suelo para la Ventana Binacional Ecuador, período 1998 - 2007, Proyecto "Diseño del SIMSA - CCCM".

Coopmans, P.; Moore, J. V.; Krabbe, N.; Jahn, O.; Berg, K. S.; Lysinger, M.; Navarrete, L.; Ridgely, R. S. 2004. The birds of southwest Ecuador. John V. Moore Nature Recordings, San Jose, USA.

del Hoyo, J. 1994. Rufous-headed Chachalaca (Ortalis erythroptera). In: del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. (ed.), Handbook of birds of the world, vol 2: New World vultures to guineafowl, pp. 344. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

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.

Dodson, C. H.; Gentry, A. H. 1991. Biological extinction in western Ecuador. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 78: 273-295.

Isherwood, I.; Willis, J. 1998. Recent Observation of Rufous-headed Chachalaca Ortalis erythroptera from Loja Province, south-west Ecuador. World Pheasant Association News 57: 35-40.

Jahn, O. in press. Bird communities of the Ecuadorian Chocó: a case study for conservation. Bonner Zoologische Monographien 56.

Parker, T. A.; Carr, J. L. 1992. Status of forest remnants in the Cordillera de la Costa and adjacent areas of southwestern Ecuador (Rapid Assessment Program). Conservation International, Washington, D.C.

Pople, R. G.; Burfield, I. J.; Clay, R. P.; Cope, D. R.; Kennedy, C. P.; López Lanús, B.; Reyes, J.; Warren, B.; Yagual, E. 1997. Bird surveys and conservation status of three sites in western Ecuador: final report of Project Ortalis '96. CSB Publications, Cambridge, UK.

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.

Strewe, R. 2001. First record of Rufous-headed Chachalaca Ortalis erythroptera for Columbia. Cotinga 15: 63.

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

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Text account compilers
Jahn, O., Benstead, P., Symes, A., Sharpe, C J, Khwaja, N., Symes, A.

Coopmans, P., Díaz Montes, V., Freile, J., Hornbuckle, J., Horstman, E., Keane, A., Mena-Valenzuela, P., Angulo Pratolongo, F.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Ortalis erythroptera. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016.

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.

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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 - Rufous-headed chachalaca (Ortalis erythroptera) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Cracidae (Guans, Chachalacas, Curassows)
Species name author Sclater & Salvin, 1870
Population size 1500-7000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 19,400 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species