Notice for readers: On March 31, Neotropical Birds will be integrated into the new Birds of the World, a powerful research database offering species accounts for every species on earth. Learn more at While Birds of the World is a subscription service, we remain committed to offering this content to Neotropical Birds contributors and to those unable to pay for it through our scholarship program. Stay tuned.

Black Guan Chamaepetes unicolor


It often comes as a surprise to new visitors to the neotropics to see large, turkey-shaped birds inhabiting the canopy of the forest, as opposed to being terrestrial.  The Black Guan is one such arboreal cracid.  An endemic to the cloud forests and montane evergreen forests of the highlands of Costa Rica and Panama, the Black Guan is a distinctive and striking small guan.  The body is all black, with blue bare skin around a red eye and red legs. In the forest, this bird can be very difficult to see and is not nearly as vocal as the Crested Guan (Penelope purpurascens) of the lowlands and foothills; though it can become at least somewhat confiding if coming in to feed at fruit feeders.  The Black Guan is frugivorous, feeding on fruits and berries from the canopy and subcanopy of the forest. The Black Guan prefers intact, undisturbed forest, and is thus (inevitably) threatened by habitat loss.

Help complete this species

There are many ways to contribute—we need species information, photographs, audio, video, translations, maps, distribution data, and bird sightings. There's a role for everyone!

Learn more


© David L. Ross, Jr.

  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding

Recommended Citation

Black Guan (Chamaepetes unicolor), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: