Plain Chachalaca (Ortalis vetula)

Plain Chachalaca

[order] GALLIFORMES | [family] Cracidae | [latin] Ortalis vetula | [UK] Plain Chachalaca | [FR] Ortalide chacamel | [DE] Blauflugel-Guan | [ES] Chachalaca Nortena, Chachalaca Olivacea (Cr), Chachalaca (HN) | [NL] Bruine Chachalaca


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Ortalis vetula NA, MA s Texas to Honduras
Ortalis vetula deschauenseei Utilia I. (off Honduras)
Ortalis vetula intermedia s Yucatan (Mexico) to Belize and Guatamala
Ortalis vetula mccalli s Texas (USA), ne Mexico
Ortalis vetula pallidiventris n Yucatan (Mexico)
Ortalis vetula vetula e Mexico to nw Costa Rica

Physical charateristics

A large gray-brown bird shaped like a half-grown Turkey, with a small head and a long, rounded, white-tipped tail. Difficult to observe, a secretive denizen of dense thickets; most easily found in morning, when it calls raucously from treetops.

Listen to the sound of Plain Chachalaca

[audio: Chachalaca.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 63 cm wingspan max.: 70 cm
size min.: 53 cm size max.: 57 cm
incubation min.: 22 days incubation max.: 25 days
fledging min.: 19 days fledging max.: 23 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 5  


North America, Middle America : South Texas to Honduras


Subtropical woods, river groves, dense brush.
In south Texas usually found near water, as around ponds, resacas, riverbanks. Generally in native woodlands of ebony, hackberry, huisache, and mesquite, but also found around edges of overgrown orchards and well-wooded suburbs of Rio Grande Valley towns


In southern Texas, usually nests in woods very close to water.
Nest: Site is on limb or in fork of branches, sometimes in vines or in broken-off stub, in tree within dense cover. Usually 4-
15′ above ground, sometimes up to 35′. Nest is a flat platform of sticks, twigs, weeds, leaves, Spanish moss, with a depression in the center; an old nest of some other bird may be used as the foundation.
Eggs: 2-3, sometimes 4. Creamy white. Incubation is by female only, about 25 days.
Young: Downy young leave nest shortly after hatching. Both parents care for young, feeding them by regurgitation at first. Young can flutter short distances within a few days after hatching, can fly up into brush at 2-
3 weeks, but not full-grown until sometime later.

Feeding habits

Mostly berries, leaves, buds, seeds.
Diet in south Texas is mostly vegetarian, eating various parts of a wide variety of plants; includes berries of coyotillo, pigeonberry, and hackberry, and others, plus seeds, leaves, buds, and flowers. Also eats a few insects and snails. Where accustomed
to humans in certain parks, will come to eat bird seed, popcorn, bread, and other junk food.
Behavior: Forages on ground or in shrubs and trees, often climbing about precariously in thin branches.


This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Plain Chachalaca status Least Concern


Southern tip of Texas south to Nicaragua.
Migration: Permanent resident.

Distribution map

Plain Chachalaca distribution range map

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