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June 13, 2021

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Return of Bird of the Week: Chestnut-breasted Guan

Male Chestnut-bellied Guan, Pantanal, Brazil

Male Chestnut-bellied Guan, Pantanal, Brazil

This is a medium-sized guan, and in contrast to its tree-loving cousins, mostly forages on the ground. It’s the rarest Cracid – the family of Chachalacas, Guans and Currasows – that WC has photographed, and is likely globally threatened.

Birds of the World (paywalled), one of the definitive sources of information on the 10,000 species of birds, says, “Comparatively little is known of the species’ natural history.” That’s an understatement.

Female Chestnut-breasted Guan, Pantanal, Brazil

Female Chestnut-breasted Guan, Pantanal, Brazil

This species prefers the swampy forests and savannah of the Pantanal, the very large, seasonal swamp in eastern Bolivia and western Brazil, although smaller populations are found in central Brazil. The chestnut breast, red dewlap and extensive black skin on the face and whitish eyebrow make identification of this species fairly straightforward.

Its diet seems to be mostly unknown, although WC watched it eat shrub blossoms. Its call is very much like a small dog’s bark, with a harsh quality.

Nesting, breeding, diet, life span and even range are mostly unknown. Because of its comparatively small range, disappearance of the species from some of its former range, habitat loss and hunting pressure, the species is believed to be threatened, but there is very little population data.

Think about that: a very large, noisy and conspicuous bird, and it is almost unknown to science. And may be lost entirely before we even begin to understand it.

Any serious, thoughtful birder has to cope with a kind of low-grade despair.

For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

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