Black Guan Chamaepetes unicolor


Justification of Red List category
Although this species may have a restricted range, it is not believed to 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). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to 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.

Population justification
The global population is suspected to number 50,000-499,999 mature individuals (Partners in Flight 2019). The species is described as 'fairly common' (Stotz et al. 1996).

Trend justification
The population is undergoing a small decline (Partners in Flight 2019), which is likely caused by ongoing habitat destruction and unsustainable levels of exploitation.

Distribution and population

Chamaepetes unicolor occurs throughout the highlands of Costa Rica and in Chiriquí, Bocas del Toro, Veraguas (Calovévora and Sante Fe) and west Coclé, Panama (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989; Stiles and Skutch 1989). It is common (estimated density of 7.4 birds/km2) in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, Costa Rica (D. Brooks in litt. 2000). Large areas of suitable habitat are protected in La Amistad International Park and the Cordillera de Guanacaste (F. G. Stiles in litt. 1999). In Panama, it was reported as locally common in the 1930s, uncommon and local in 1971 (del Hoyo 1994), and rare to locally fairly common (e.g. in Fortuna Forest Reserve) in the 1980s (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989). The species was found to be fairly common at Cerro Pena Blanca, west of El Cope, in 2001 (G. Angehr in litt. 2005).


Chamaepetes unicolor inhabits montane cloud forest, preferring steep terrain with ridges and ravines (Wheelwright et al. 1984; Ridgely and Gwynne 1989; Stiles and Skutch 1989). The species is strongly dependent on forest and avoids open and disturbed habitat (Oostra et al. 2008). It typically occurs at elevations of 900-2,250 m, but has been recorded as low as 450 m (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989). The species feeds mostly on fruits (Muñoz and Kattan 2007). In Panama, young birds have been seen in February and June. In Costa Rica, pairing has been observed to begin in March, with both very young chicks and almost full-grown young seen in July (del Hoyo 1994). The species lays 2-3 eggs per clutch (del Hoyo 1994).


This species is hunted for food (del Hoyo 1994). Highland forests have suffered burning, logging and conversion to intensive agriculture (Dinerstein et al. 1995), and in east Chiriquí only isolated patches of forest remain above 1,000 m (W. J. Adsett in litt. 1993). However, the extent of fragmentation in higher zones is less than in lowland areas. Where not hunted for food, the species persists in forest edge and secondary growth adjacent to undisturbed forest (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989; Strahl et al. 1994; F. G. Stiles in litt. 1999). In Panama, a belt of nearly continuous forest remains along the cordillera from the Costa Rican border to just east of El Cope, although the continuity may be lost in future.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
This species occurs in numerous protected areas, including private reserves.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys to obtain an up-to-date estimate of the total population. Monitor population trends through regular surveys. Monitor rates of habitat loss and degradation across its range. Assess whether hunting is still a serious threat, and in which areas this is most severe. Protect remaining substantial tracts of cloud forest. Encourage the restoration of cloud forests, especially the linking of remaining fragments.


64 cm. Short-tailed glossy black cracid. Overall glossy black, sootier below. Bare blue facial skin with red iris. Coral red legs. Immature duller and sootier. Voice Mostly silent. In breeding season gives soft low piping calls at dawn. Also low kowr when startled and tsik tsik alarm call. Wings rattle when flying between trees. Hints Forages singly, in pairs or small groups, mostly in trees but sometimes on the ground.


Text account compilers
Hermes, C.

Adsett, W.J., Angehr, G., Benstead, P., Brooks, D., Capper, D., Keane, A., Sharpe, C.J., Stiles, F.G., Stuart, T., Taylor, J. & Westrip, J.R.S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Species factsheet: Chamaepetes unicolor. Downloaded from on 27/02/2024.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2024) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 27/02/2024.