Plain ChachalacaOrtalis vetula
- ORDER: Galliformes
- FAMILY: Cracidae
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
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.
- Chachalaca Norteña (Spanish)
- Ortalide chacamel (French)
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
- Although most birds in the Galliformes—such as quail, grouse, turkeys, and pheasants—are ground dwellers, Plain Chachalacas are at home in trees. Their young can cling to branches with both wings and feet as soon as they are dry after hatching.
- Pairs of Plain Chachalacas give their loud calls in the early morning and early evening. Chachalacas also call when a storm is approaching or there is some other change in the weather.
- The Plain Chachalaca is the only member of the family of guans, curassows, and chachalacas to reach the United States. The family contains approximately 50 species, ranging from Mexico to southern South America, many of which are endangered because of hunting.
- Plain Chachalacas have been known to live up to age 8 years in the wild.