Family Guans, Chachalacas, Curassows (Cracidae)

Least Concern

Plain Chachalaca (Ortalis vetula)


French: Ortalide chacamel German: Blauflügelguan Spanish: Chachalaca norteña
Other common names: Northern Chachalaca (mccalli), Utila Chachalaca (deschauenseei)

Penelope vetula


, 1830,



O. poliocephala and O. leucogastra formerly considered races of present species; in Chiapas (S Mexico), range meets, and may slightly overlap with, those of both, but hybridization not recorded. Isolated population in NW Costa Rica (Guanacaste), currently included in nominate but sometimes assigned to O. leucogastra, may represent an undescribed race of present species; in plumage coloration and voice it is closer to present species than to O. leucogastra#R#R, but with body distinctively more rufous than other races. Race intermedia sometimes subsumed within nominate vetula. Population of dry interior valley of Chiapas, S Mexico, was separated in race vallicola, but differences slight and not usually recognized; likewise, proposed races jalapensis and plumbiceps both synonymized with nominate. Five subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • O. v. mccalli S. F. Baird, 1858 – extreme S Texas (USA) and NE Mexico (S to N Veracruz); introduced to islands of Sapelo, Blackbeard and Little St Simons, off Georgia (USA)#R.
  • O. v. vetula (Wagler, 1830) – E & S Mexico (S from C Veracruz and E Puebla), S Guatemala, N & C Honduras and NC Nicaragua; isolated population in NW Costa Rica (Guanacaste).
  • O. v. pallidiventris Ridgway, 1887 – N Yucatán (including Cancún I).
  • O. v. intermedia J. L. Peters, 1913 – S Yucatán to N Guatemala and Belize; recently found in NW El Salvador#R.
  • O. v. deschauenseei J. Bond, 1936 – Utila I, off N Honduras.
  • Descriptive notes

    48–58 cm; male 468–794 g, female 439–709 g. Plain coloration. No sexual dimorphism, but throat patch becomes brighter red in both sexes during breeding... read more


    Both sexes sing, both morning and evening (and also on moonlit nights) with oldest males apparently... read more


    Areas of tall brush vegetation, thick­ets, scrub and second growth in lowlands, usually with a... read more

    Food and feeding

    Fruits of many kinds (20–25 species identified in two Texan studies), including hackberries (Celtis laevigata, C.... read more


    Season Mar–May in Veracruz, Yucatán and S Chiapas, Apr–May in Texas (occasionally late Mar), Jul in Tamaulipas and Nuevo... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Still common over much of range and locally very common. Favoured by shifting agriculture practices, permitting fields to lie... read more

    Recommended citation

    del Hoyo, J. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Plain Chachalaca (Ortalis vetula). 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 26 February 2020).