Black Curassow Crax alector


Justification of Red List Category

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.

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.

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).


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

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.


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.


Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Khwaja, N., Symes, A.

Lees, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Crax alector. Downloaded from on 19/02/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 19/02/2020.