Geographical Range South America
Habitat Tropical forests, especially steep hills near rivers and streams
Scientific Name Pipile cumanensis cumanensis
Conservation Status Common

Not Your Average Chicken

Think of the piping guan as a chicken, except it has a much longer neck and tail, and its feathers are glossy black. It sports large white wing patches, and the chest and wing tips are flecked with white. The base of the bill is baby blue, the area around the eyes is bare white, the crest and nape are shaggy white, and the legs are red. (OK, forget the chicken.)

Males and females are identical.

A Preference for Palms

Piping guans feed on the fruits and seeds of numerous forest trees, but their favorite treat is the seeds of palm trees. They eat mainly in the evening.

Nest Time

Piping guans build thin twig nests in the dense canopy of the forest. During the rainy season, the female lays two or three yellowish-white eggs and sits on them until they hatch, in about 24 days.

Their Feet Don't Touch the Ground

Piping guans spend most of their lives in the tropical forest canopy and rarely come to the ground. When they are alarmed, they will flee to the top of a nearby tree. They usually live in flocks of five to 10 animals.

Accidental Gardener

Like many guan species, the piping guan plays a very important role in the ecology of tropical forests. Its habit of eating fruits and seeds (and pooping out the remains) helps disperse the seeds of trees throughout the forest. In this way, the guan helps forests renew themselves.

Holding Their Own

The piping guan belongs to a primitive family of birds known as the cracids. This family of birds is one of the most endangered -- 19 of the 50 species are in trouble.

Fortunately, the piping guan is not yet one of them, although there are a few areas in South America where it is locally rare or declining. The birds are hunted for food consumption. They also suffer from habitat loss, since they prefer forested river edges where the stands of trees are increasingly being converted to farmland.

Fun Fact

The word "piping" in this bird's name comes from the piping call it makes only in breeding season: a half-dozen clear whistles, gradually rising in pitch.

Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Family: Cracidae