Plain Chachalaca

Ortalis vetula

Plain Chachalacas range from southern Texas south through eastern Mexico, Yucatan and northern Central America. We often hear the raucous calls of these chicken or pheasant sized birds before we see them. Related to guans, curassows, and other chachalacas, the Plain Chachalaca is the only member of this clan to establish a home in the USA.

If there was a Mount Rushmore of iconic south Texan birds, the Plain Chachalaca would surely own a place there. For such a large bird, they can be elusive if they choose to be. When they choose stealth, they can stay under the radar with the best of them. But often their loud calls echo through a neighborhood, and announce their presence in a most un-subtle fashion. Like roadrunners, they prefer to run away from danger rather than fly, but flight is entirely within their repertoire. They often perch high in the canopy of the woodlands they live in.

Science recognizes four subspecies of the Plain Chachalaca. It is the race O. v. mccallii that we find in Texas. The other three members of this clan are: O. v. vetula (lives across southern Mexico), O. v. pallidiventris (lives on the Yucatán Peninsula), and O. v. deschauenseei (lives on Utila Island, Honduras).

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