The Horned guan is an impressive, unmistakable bird that is named for the unusual red “horn” of bare skin at the tip of its head. Adults sport a horn that averages between 1.6 – 2.4 inches (4 – 6 cm) in height. This large cracid is glossy black above, with a blue-green sheen. The foreneck, breast and upper belly are mostly white, with black flecks. The lower belly and flanks are brown. A striking, white band is near the base of the tail. Horned guans also have a small red dewlap (loose skin hanging under the neck). The legs are red, iris is white and the bill is yellow. Sexes are alike, however it has been reported that the lengths of tarsus, wing, tail and horn are somewhat longer in males. Vocalizations and behavior can be used more accurately for the identification of males and females.
Found in a large area of Brazil, as well as Bolivia, Paraguay, and tropical Argentina, this has the southern-most range of the 14 species of curassows. All of these turkey-sized birds are considered delicious and subject to hunting pressure and most are of concern to conservationists. This species, however, is considered comparatively abundant, though no longer found in parts of its range. Rare in US zoos, it is widespread in European collections.
This bird was once extremely rare in captivity, but there are now more than 100 in collections around the world, almost all captive bred. This population is important as this species is endangered, with a wild population of less than 3,000 in the mountains of Colombia and Venezuela. Several have recently hatched at the DWA. The bizarre blue “helmet” is actually part of the skull.