Red-billed Curassow Crax blumenbachii


Justification of Red List Category
A successful reintroduction programme has helped to partially offset an ongoing decline in this species. The range and population are very small and severely fragmented. It is very close to qualifying as Critically Endangered, but two subpopulations consist of more than 50 individuals. It is therefore listed as Endangered.

Population justification
Minimum estimates of the species's population are 60 birds in Sooretama Biological Reserve, 100 in Rio Doce State Park and 35 in Descobrimento National Park, and c.20 individuals in the Michelin Ecological Reserve, Bahia (K. M. Flesher in litt. 2011) with recent sightings of small numbers at five other sites in 2003. It is likely to number 200-249 individuals in total, roughly equating to 130-170 mature individuals.

Trend justification
Although the population is expected to be increasing in some locations (mainly Michelin Ecological Reserve, Bahia [K. M. Flesher in litt. 2012]), overall a population decline of 1-9% over the last ten years is suspected based on rates of habitat loss and degradation, and hunting pressure.

Distribution and population

Crax blumenbachii was formerly widespread in east Brazil, from Bahia south through Espírito Santo and east Minas Gerais to Rio de Janeiro. Wild populations are currently known from eight reserves, with strongholds of considerably more than 60 birds in Sooretama Biological Reserve, over 100 birds in the adjacent Vale do Rio Doce Natural Reserve (formerly Linhares Forest Reserve) in Espírito Santo, and 35-40 birds (in 2003) in Descobrimento National Park, Bahia (Silveira et al. 2005). It may be extinct in Monte Pascoal National Park, Bahia, and Rio Doce State Park, Minas Gerais where it has not been reported since the 1970s (Silveira et al. 2005). Other recent records come from Ituberá, Serra do Conduru State Park, Pau-Brasil National Park, Una Biological Reserve and Serra das Lontras, all in Bahia (Silveira et al. 2005). There are perhaps 20 individuals in the Michelin Ecological Reserve, Bahia (K. M. Flesher in litt. 2011). A census of Una Biological Reserve and the nearby private reserve of Fazenda Capitão in 2005-2006 found only five individuals in 430 hours of observation along 329 km of transects (P. Develey in litt. 2007). There have been no confirmed records of wild birds from Rio de Janeiro since 1963 and none from Minas Gerais since the 1970s, however birds have now been reintroduced at sites in both states (Silveira et al. 2005). A successful captive-breeding and reintroduction programme has boosted numbers in the wild (Scheres 1993, Brooks and Strahl 2000, Bernardo 2007), including 28 released and radio-tracked between August 2006 and September 2007 at REGUA, Rio de Janeiro (of which 9 had died by September 2007) (Bernardo 2007). The total population remains extremely small.


It is largely terrestrial in tall, lowland humid forest, although recent records from Serra das Lontras suggest it may also occur in montane forest above 500 m (Silveira et al. 2005). It has been suggested that the species may utilise disturbed and agricultural habitats in the Michelin Ecological Reserve including old secondary regenerating forest and possibly rubber and cacao plantations (K. M. Flesher in litt. 2012). The diet consists of fruit, buds, seeds and arthropods. It may be polygamous, but this observation may result from differential hunting pressure between the sexes. Males boom mainly in September-October with young hatching in the next couple of months. Typically two (range 1-4) eggs are laid.


The species has suffered chronic habitat loss and hunting pressure. Virtually all lowland forest north of Rio de Janeiro is within actively protected reserves or has been completely converted to plantations and pastureland. Even in Monte Pascoal National Park, habitat loss continues as a result of conflicts over the land rights of local people. Hunting and capture for the bird trade persist in reserves and are likely to have a severe impact on such fragmented populations (Silveira et al. 2005).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I and protected under Brazilian law. It is largely restricted to reserves, with Sooretama and Linhares the most effectively protected. Over 600 birds are present in captivity at at least 15 locations (Silveira et al. 2005). Since the first releases in 1991 four reintroduction projects have taken place in Minas Gerais (at Fazenda Macedônia Private Reserve, Fechos Reserve and Peti Environmental Station) (Scheres 1993, Simpson et al. 1997, Silveira et al. 2005), where introduced birds are periodically monitored, have a high survival rate, and there are now second generation offspring (Simpson et al. 1997, Brooks and Strahl 2000). In Rio de Janeiro state reintroductions began in 2006 at the REGUA reserve in the Guapi Assu basin (Bernardo 2007). Birds here are radio-tagged and their survival and movements are monitored (Bernardo et al. 2011). Post-release survival probability is high (75%), though lower (60%) when taking into account deaths before release (Bernardo et al. 2011). A long-term monitoring programme is established in the Michelin Ecological Reserve, along with an environmental education programme featuring the Red-billed Curassow as one of the flagship species (K. M. Flesher in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey Monte Pascoal, Rio Doce and other localities where the species has been recorded in the past to assess its current status at these sites, and conduct ground surveys of areas identified as potential localities from which the species is not yet recorded. Survey known populations to obtain population estimates and more information on ecology and habitat use patterns. Ensure the de facto protection of all reserves with known populations. Patrol reserves to prevent hunting and trapping. Create private reserves protecting forest remnants within the species's range. Continue the reintroduction programme, managing captive stocks to avoid loss of genetic diversity, increasing the number of institutions breeding the species and integrating all captive populations within a common management and breeding protocol. Identify further potential reintroduction sites, continue long-term monitoring of released individuals and ensure effective protection of localities selected for reintroduction. Establish environmental education programmes in communities living around protected areas, focusing these on the issue of hunting. Lobby for the unauthorised killing, capture or trade of C.blumenbachii to be made offences subject to prison without bail.


84 cm. Large, mostly black cracid. Male glossy black with white vent and undertail-coverts. Long, curly feathers in crown. Knob and wattle reddish-orange. Black legs. Female black with deep cinnamon-rufous vent and undertail-coverts. Flight feathers finely vermiculated with rufous. Shorter, white-barred crest feathers. No wattles. Pinkish legs. Voice Low woop when foraging, eeee-oooo when disturbed. Hints Usually seen in pairs, but groups of four (presumably family units) have been recorded.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Capper, D., Sharpe, C J, Symes, A., Derhé, M.

Flesher, K., Develey, P., Bianchi, C.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Crax blumenbachii. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 04/07/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 04/07/2022.