Costa Rican’s Version of the Wild Turkey

~ by Jack Ewing

Please Don’t Eat One for Thanksgiving or Christmas...

The Great Curassow is the largest bird in Path of the Tapir Biological Corridor. An ornithologist who, in 1996, was assessing avian diversity in the corridor, once commented that the Great Curassow could possibly become locally extinct. “The problem is,” he lamented, “that it is found exclusively in primary forest, and there isn’t much of that left in the corridor.” Two years later those same curassows proved him wrong when a pair moved into the lowland, secondary forest of Hacienda Baru.

Today there are a dozen pair.

At 4 kilos, these magnificent turkey-like birds are the third largest avians in Costa Rica - the Harpy Eagle and Jabiru Stork are bigger. Great curassows are further distinguished in that they are one of the few avian species in which the females - mostly bright rufus tinged with black - sport much more elegant plumage than the males – solid black with a yellow blob above the beak. Both have long elegant combs with curlicues on the outer fringe. 

Curassows are terrible fliers, but with great effort, can make it up to lower rainforest branches, which is where they roost, and also where they flee when frightened. 

Costa Rican’s Version of the Wild Turkey - Uvita, Bahia Ballena, Osa

I have never tasted the meat of these wild turkeys and never plan to, but, I have been told that it is delicious, just like chompipe the native domestic turkey. That same ornithologist also informed me that Great Curassows are very shy and try to avoid people. “If you put trails through the jungle, they will move into thicker forest and hide,” he warned. They proved him wrong again.

I guess they learned to like us. Today Great Curassows are frequently seen and photographed on Hacienda Baru’s nature trails.

They usually don’t flee at the sight of humans and often allow visitors to get very close.

INFO: Hacienda Baru -

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