Great Curassow Crax rubra


Justification of Red List Category
Hunting pressure and habitat loss are suspected to be causing ongoing rapid declines across the extensive range of this species. A rapid population decline is suspected to be ingoing, owing to hunting pressure and habitat loss and fragmentation. If these declines are found to be even greater than is currently suspected it may require further uplisting to Endangered.

Population justification
The total population is estimated to number 10,000-60,000 individuals, roughly equivalent to 6,700-40,000 mature individuals (O. Jahn in litt. 2009).

Trend justification
This species is suspected have undergone rapid declines during the past three generations (34 years) owing to hunting pressure and habitat loss and fragmentation, and these declines are predicted to continue.

Distribution and population

Crax rubra has a wide but now highly fragmented distribution from San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, Querétaro, Hidalgo, Puebla, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Tabasco, Chiapas and the Yucatán peninsula, Mexico (Howell and Webb 1995a, F. González-García in litt. 1998, M. Martínez-Morales in litt. 1998), south through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama to west Colombia (Pacific lowlands east to the Gulf of Urabá and the upper Sinú valley) and, very rarely, west Ecuador (Sibley and Monroe 1990, R. S. Ridgely in litt. 1998). The distinctive race griscomi is restricted to Cozumel Island off Mexico, where an estimated 300 individuals remain (Martínez-Morales 1996) and it is thought to have declined (Caballero and Martínez-Morales 2006). It has undergone a considerable (and continuing) decline, becoming uncommon to rare or locally extinct throughout much of its range. In Ecuador there are perhaps fewer than 100 individuals occurring in three protected areas (J. Freile in litt. 2009), with very few recent reports of the species (J. Freile in litt. 2012). Healthy populations occurred in the Chimalapas region of Oaxaca, but the effects of extensive fires in 1998 on the species are unknown (A. G. Navarro in litt. 1998). However, it has recovered or remains relatively common in areas with legal protection or where it is not hunted, and populations are still stable in isolated and well protected parts of Guatemala and Nicaragua (del Hoyo 1994).


It is restricted to undisturbed humid evergreen forest (also seasonally dry forest in some areas) and mangroves although there are reports that it tolerates limited disturbance (Radachowsky et al. 2004). It is primarily a lowland species but has been recorded at altitudes of up to 1,900 m in Panama and on the northern slope of Sierra de las Minas, Guatemala (E. H. Baur in litt. 2012)


It is widely hunted for food (legally in Belize [Miller and Miller 1997] ), and further threatened by severe habitat loss and fragmentation (del Hoyo 1994, Arguedas et al. 1997, Radachowsky and Ramos 2004, Radachowsky et al. 2004) in Ecuador (annual deforestation rate of 3.8% within the breeding range), Honduras (3.1% per year nationally), El Salvador (1.7%), Colombia (unprecedented deforestation rates in the Colombian Chocó), Guatemala (1.3% annual deforestation) and Nicaragua (1.3%) (O. Jahn in litt. 2009). It rapidly disappears when logging roads are built into previously inaccessible forests (del Hoyo 1994). Extensive fires, such as those in Oaxaca, Mexico in 1998, may be a threat to habitat quality, and some birds are captured as pets. Additional potential threats to race griscomi include hurricanes and the introduction of invasive species (Caballero and Martínez-Morales 2006).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES III in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras and Colombia (del Hoyo 1994). It occurs in a number of protected areas including Santa Rosa, Rincón de la Vieja and Corcovado National Parks in Costa Rica (del Hoyo 1994). A captive breeding and reintroduction project is taking place in secondary forest on the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica with 94 birds released between 2000-2004 (Zepeda 2006).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey populations and ascertain trends at known sites. Research land-use effects on the species and its habitat. Effectively protect national parks where the species occurs. Enforce hunting restrictions (and ban hunting in Belize), and introduce educational campaigns to reduce hunting pressure.


Text account compilers
Isherwood, I., Benstead, P., Symes, A., Sharpe, C J, Derhé, M., Symes, A.

Baur, E., Navarro, A., Freile, J., Ridgely, R., Rios, M., González-García, F., Brooks, D., Jahn, O., Martínez-Morales, M., Sandoval, L., Freile, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Crax rubra. Downloaded from on 26/09/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 26/09/2020.