Family Guans, Chachalacas, Curassows (Cracidae)

Least Concern

Grey-headed Chachalaca (Ortalis cinereiceps)


French: Ortalide à tête grise German: Graukopfguan Spanish: Chachalaca cabecigrís

Ortalida cinereiceps

G. R. Gray

, 1867,

“north-west coast of America”; error = probably Pearl Islands, Panama


Closely related to O. garrula, of which has been considered a race, but differs in voice and plumage, and, despite claims of sporadic hybridization in wild, the two are separated by stretch of dense forest probably unsuitable for any Ortalis. Several races (frantzii, mira, olivacea, chocoensis) proposed on basis of colour tone, but differences slight and essentially clinal. Monotypic.


E Honduras (Mosquitia), E & C Nicaragua, Costa Rica (except drier NW), Panama (including I del Rey, in Pearl Is, where perhaps introduced by native American Indians) and adjacent NW Colombia (Chocó).

Descriptive notes

46–58 cm; 490–540 g, but one bird 682 g. Bright chestnut primaries conspicuous in flight. Overall, mainly greyish brown, predominantly grey on head and neck, with... read more


Voice less distinctive of genus than many other Ortalis; song apparently a relatively soft... read more


Tangled thickets, light second-growth woods, plantations, bushy abandoned fields, clearings and... read more

Food and feeding

Fruits, e.g. spikes of guarumo trees (Cecropia), berries (Hamelia patens, Miconia hyperprasina, Mantingia... read more


Season variable, with laying recorded Jan–May, comprising at least part of rainy season, but half-grown young also seen in Jan. Nest... read more


Presumably sedentary.

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Population estimated at 100,000 individuals in Central America, with an additional 20,000 in Colombia. Numbers apparently much... read more

Recommended citation

del Hoyo, J. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Grey-headed Chachalaca (Ortalis cinereiceps). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 20 February 2020).