Medical Management of Curassows

Chapter 23 Medical Management of Curassows

The Houston Zoological Gardens (HZG) has been successful in raising and maintaining curassows in captivity, housing more than 230 curassows of 10 species since 1973. The information in this chapter is based on review of medical records, necropsy records, and personal zoo experience in dealing with this group of birds. The age of birds included in my study ranged from prehatchling to 31 years. Birds over 1 year of age were considered to be adults.


Curassows are a long-lived (20+ year), arboreal gallinaceous group of birds found in the Central and South American tropics and subtropics.2 They are in the family Cracidae, a primitive bird group in the order Galliformes, and are distantly related and similar to grouse, quail, chicken, and other fowl species. The family Cracidae contains curassows (four genera, 14 species; Box 23-1), chachalacas, and guans.3 Curassows are important in seed dispersal, as environmental indicators, and for ecotourism. Several species of curassow are highly endangered or threatened in their environment as a result of habitat destruction and hunting.5

Natural enemies of curassows include predatory birds, mammals, and humans. Curassows are generally monogamous, usually occurring in pairs, although trios (cock and two hens) or family groups may be found existing peacefully together. The female lays and broods two eggs (occasionally only one or up to three), with incubation lasting approximately 28 to 30 days. Females may produce four clutches per year if the eggs are removed for artificial incubation or domestic chicken brooding after the clutch is laid. Chicks are precocial, grasping and perching as soon as they are hatched; thus smaller perching should be provided for the chick within 24 hours after hatching. The chicks are fed by both parents by offering foods in their beak; curassow parents do not regurgitate for their young.

Curassows exhibit four interesting mannerisms for uncertain reasons, but believed to be for anxiety, nervousness, or courtship: (1) a rapid head flick from side to side, (2) the tail bob, (3) passing of the head over the back, such as a duck would do when preening, and (4) the wing flap. If one is not familiar with these behaviors, they could be misconstrued as neurologic conditions. It is thought that the head flick might have evolved as a defense to parasitic eye flies.1

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Oct 1, 2016 | Posted by in EXOTIC, WILD, ZOO | Comments Off on Medical Management of Curassows

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