The Northern Helmeted Curassow, Pauxi pauxi is a large (up to 91cm long) terrestrial black curassow with a small head, large bluish grey casque on forehead, red bill, white-tipped tail feathers, greenish glossed mantle and breast feathers, and white below. Both sexes are similar. The male, at 3.6 kg (8 lbs), is larger than the female, at 2.6 kg (5.8 lbs). Some rare rufous morph female has a black barred and reddish brown plumage. For some time, it also contained the Southern Helmeted Curassow taxa as subspecies and was simply known as the Helmeted Curassow. Nowadays its southern congener is considered a distinct species P. unicornis.
There are 2 subspecies:
- Mérida Helmeted Curassow, Pauxi pauxi pauxi
Cordillera de Mérida into Cordillera Oriental, Colombia
Casque larger, egg-shaped
- Perijá Helmeted Curassow, Pauxi pauxi gilliardi
Serrania del Perija
Casque smaller, less bulbous, rather cylindrical in shape.
Their evolutionary history is not well researched compared to other curassows. The helmeted curassows probably are a lineage of Late Miocene (Tortonian-Messinian, about 8-7 million years ago) origin. This species' present-day distribution suggests that it became isolated some 6 million years ago as its mountain range uplifted. It is not known when gene flow between the subspecies ceased.
One of the largest birds in its habitat, the Helmeted Curassow is distributed in the eastern Andes of Venezuela and Colombia. The diet consists mainly of seeds, fruits, insects and small animals. The female lays two cream colored eggs and incubates it for about 30 days.
The Helmeted Curassow is listed on Appendix II of CITES. Formerly classified as an Vulnerable species by the IUCN, recent research shows that its numbers are decreasing more and more rapidly. It is consequently uplisted to Endangered status in 2008.