Of course, we are already familiar with the characteristic sound of the piha in the Bush, very impressive and very present. However, there is currently another sound that can clearly be heard in the Bush, the sound of the chaco chachalaca.
Rare at zoos
When we were asked by GaiaZOO in Limburg if we were prepared to take on a pair of unrelated chaco chachalacas, we did not have to think about it for long. These species has long been on the wish list for the Bush. There are twelve species of chachalacas, but only two are kept in European zoos. Of these two species, there are still only a few in zoos. Therefore, it is fairly difficult to come across chacalacas. At the beginning of March, the arrival of this new species in our collection had finally come.
Family of curassows and guans
Chachalacas belong to the family of curassows and guans (Cracidae). Another type of bird in the Bush that belongs to this group is the blue-throated piping guan. Chachalacas live in Central and South America in tropical and subtropical forests.
This bird is brownish grey in colour with rough, long claws. On their throats, they have a bald wattle that turns pink to red, depending on the season. The male and female look the same, with the female being a bit smaller overall and having a slightly duller wattle.
The bird is good at dispersing the seeds of fruiting plants because the seeds of the fruit it eats exit their bodies intact.
Chachalacas are highly vocal animals and create a loud sound. The name chachalaca refers not to the sound of one animal, but to the sound (refrain) of several animals singing together. Some of the local names for the birds are ‘guacharaca’ or ‘charata’, both names derived from their call. The loud call can be heard from two kilometres away, with males calling at one octave lower than females. In addition to this ‘singing’ that they do together, they also know how to whistle, cluck, chirp, and shriek. They are really quite the chatterboxes.
Chaco chachalacas can fly, but they seek out most of their food on the ground. They eat seeds, caterpillars, fruits, and leaves. They make a simple nest in a tree or thick brush. The nest is made of some branches, twigs, and leaves. Most nest about 2.5 to 4 metres off the ground and lay 3-4 eggs. The female sits on the eggs and the male protects the nest. The eggs hatch after roughly three weeks of incubation.