Ortalis – Chachalacas

Early risers, often starting their day with a chorus of calls before the sun rises

These birds are known for their loud, distinctive calls and are commonly found in the forests and woodlands of Central and South America. They are relatively large birds with lean bodies, long tails, and small heads. Chachalacas are easily recognizable by their plain yet attractive plumage, which typically features shades of brown and gray. Their feathers provide excellent camouflage against the forest floor and dense foliage. One of their most notable physical features is their long tail, which they often flick and fan out, especially during social interactions and courtship displays.

These birds are highly social and are often observed in small family groups. Their social structure is quite complex, and they exhibit strong family bonds. Chachalacas are named for their loud, repetitive calls, which sound like “cha-cha-lac.” These calls are a vital part of their communication, used to establish territory, maintain group cohesion, and attract mates. The cacophony created by a group of chachalacas can be heard from a considerable distance, making them one of the more vocal residents of their habitat.

Chachalacas inhabit a range of environments, from tropical and subtropical forests to scrublands and mangroves. Their adaptability to different habitats makes them resilient and able to thrive in various ecological conditions. They prefer areas with dense vegetation, which provides cover from predators and ample food resources. Despite their ability to fly, chachalacas often move about by hopping and gliding from branch to branch, and they can run swiftly on the ground if needed.