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Birds of Quinta Mazatlan - Plain Chachalaca

Spanish Name: Chachalaca Comun | Scientific Name: Ortalis vetula | Size: 22"

Plain Chachalaca

The Plain Chachalaca is one of the most entertaining birds you’ll see in the Valley. The gawky jumps from branch to branch, the chases, and the song of this bird all may have you either laughing or covering your ears, but it’s difficult not to like this bird. South Texas is the only spot where these birds naturally occur in the United States, though there are many more species in their family in South and Central America.


Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the Chachalaca (and for which it’s named), the song is extremely loud; so loud that it often drains out all the other sounds of the forest. The ringing choruses of cha-cha-lac or get-the-ball will be sung in duets and choirs in order to set up the birds’ territories.


Spends most of its time on or near the ground in lush thickets, plucking fruits, leaves, buds, and plant shoots to eat. This bird often runs and hops rather than flying due to its weak flight muscles, but will be seen gliding and flying to avoid predators or other disturbances.


Chachalacas make either a clumsy nest of twigs and fibers (truly a mess), or they’ll not make a nest at all and simply lay their eggs in a scratch or depression in the ground. Their eggs are large and white, very similar in appearances to a chicken egg. The young chachalacas are brown and downy, sporting a distinctive line down the top of their heads that resembles a Mohawk.


Plain Chachalacas are inhabitants of our Tamulipan Thornforest, inhabiting dense thickets and lush woods. They aren’t only out in the brush however; you may also see them in your own backyard! If a neighborhood has a good amount of mature trees and food sources Plain Chachalacas may become established.

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600 Sunset Drive
McAllen, TX 78504

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