The Grey-headed Chachalaca, Ortalis cinereiceps, is a member of an ancient group of birds of the Cracidae family, which are related to the Australasian mound builders. It breeds in lowlands from eastern Honduras to northwestern Colombia (from South Chocó to the upper Atrato) at up to 1100 m altitude.
The Grey-headed Chachalaca is an arboreal species, found in thickets with emergent trees. The broad shallow nest is built of twigs and vines 1-3 m up in a tree, often partially screened by vines. The female lays three or four large rough-shelled white eggs and incubates them alone.
These are medium-sized birds, similar in general appearance to turkeys, with small heads, long strong legs and a long broad tail. They are typically 51cm long and weigh 500 g. They have fairly dull plumage, dark brown above and paler below. The head is dark grey, and the blackish tail is tipped with pale grey-brown. The primary flight feathers are rufous.
The Plain Chachalaca, O. vetula, has an isolated population in northern Costa Rica, but is larger, more rufous below, has a white tail tip, and lacks rufous in the wings.
The Grey-headed Chachalaca is less noisy than Plain or Rufous-vented Chachalacas. It has a peeping white, white, white contact call and a chorus of raucous kraaak sounds, but does not give the chachalaca call of its relatives.
This is a social bird, often seen in family groups of 6-12. It walks along branches seeking the fruit and berries on which it feeds, or flies off with an ani-like flap and glide.
Three Grey-headed Chachalacas
A Grey-headed Chachalaca with a Great Kiskadee and a Clay-colored Robin