Vocal behavior of Great Curassows, a vulnerable Neotropical bird

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Journal of Field Ornithology





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The Cracidae rank among the most threatened families of Neotropical birds, and studies of their vocal behavior may help guide conservation and monitoring efforts. We describe the vocal behavior of Great Curassows (Crax rubra), a little-studied Cracid species currently listed as vulnerable. From 2008 to 2010, we recorded curassows in northwest Costa Rica using both handheld and automated digital recorders. Analysis of recordings revealed that Great Curassows had a vocal repertoire of five call types. Yip and bark calls are sex-specific alarm calls of short duration (0.12 and 0.08 s, respectively). The descending whistle is a longer duration alarm call (2.18 s) produced primarily by males. The snarl is a short call (0.67 s) associated with a threat display produced by adults with dependent young. The boom call was the most common Great Curassow vocalization, and was given only by males. Boom calls are long (8.86 s), low-frequency ( < 150 > Hz), multisyllable calls comprised of four stereotyped phrases. Great Curassows often uttered boom calls well before dawn, with a peak in activity at dawn and the hours following. Males produced bouts of repeated boom calls that lasted an average of 35 min, but sometimes continued for more than 5 h. Boom calls were given from February to June, with a peak in late April and early May when breeding begins. Discriminant analysis of boom calls of birds from 10 different locations revealed interindividual variation in call structure that may be useful for bioacoustic monitoring of individuals. Our results suggest that automated recorders might provide a way to monitor the abundance of male curassows because their boom calls are given frequently during the period from February to June and can be detected at distances up to 250 m. © 2011 The Authors. Journal of Field Ornithology © 2011 Association of Field Ornithologists.