Plain Chachalaca

ID Info
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Plain Chachalaca

Ortalis vetula
  • ORDER: Galliformes
  • FAMILY: Cracidae
Basic Description

Almost always heard before it is seen, the Plain Chachalaca is sort of a long-tailed, tropical chicken that lives in the treetops. These sandy brown and gray birds walk along tree branches to eat flowers, buds, fruits, and insects. They’re locally fairly common in brushy and thorny forests along streams in the Rio Grande Valley and south into Central America. Though their plumage is subtle, their raucous, rhythmic morning chorus is anything but—a classic sound of the Tamaulipan brushlands that livens up any outing.

More ID Info
image of range map for Plain ChachalacaRange map provided by Birds of the WorldExplore Maps

Find This Bird

In the wildlife refuges and state parks of southernmost Texas, the chachalaca’s very loud dawn chorus (cha-cha-lac!) should help you zero in on them. These birds perch and forage high in bushes and small trees, so look up to find them. Walking trails or quiet roads early in the morning will usually produce a sighting. Checking bird feeding stations is also a good idea: they often come in to eat birdseed or fruit.

Other Names
  • Chachalaca Norteña (Spanish)
  • Ortalide chacamel (French)

Backyard Tips

Plain Chachalacas may visit feeding stations if seed, especially milo or cracked corn, is placed on the ground. They also eat some fruits including grapes, mangoes, and persimmons.

  • Cool Facts