Alagoas curassow

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Alagoas curassow
Alagoas curassow

Extinct in the Wild (IUCN 3.1)[1]
CITES Appendix I (CITES)[2]
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Family: Cracidae
Genus: Mitu
M. mitu
Binomial name
Mitu mitu
(Linnaeus, 1766)
  • Mitu mitu mitu
  • Crax mitu Linnaeus, 1766

The Alagoas curassow (Mitu mitu) is a glossy-black, pheasant-like bird. It was formerly found in forests in Northeastern Brazil in what is now the states of Pernambuco and Alagoas, which is the origin of its common name.[3] It is now extinct in the wild; there are about 130 individuals in captivity.

German naturalist Georg Marcgrave first identified the Alagoas curassow in 1648 in its native range. Subsequently, the origin and legitimacy of the bird began to be questioned due to the lack of specimens. An adult female curassow was rediscovered in 1951, in the coastal forests of Alagoas. The Mitu mitu was then accepted as a separate species.[4] At that time fewer than 60 birds were left in the wild, in the forests around São Miguel dos Campos. Several authors in the 1970s brought to light the growing destruction of its habitat and the rarity of the species. Even with these concerns, the last large forest remnants which contained native Mitu mitu were demolished for sugarcane agriculture.[4]


The Alagoas curassow measures approximately 83–89 centimetres (33–35 in) in length. Feathers covering its body are black and glossy, with a blue-purple hue.[5] Specimens of Mitu mitu also has a large, bright red beak, flattened at its sides, with a white tip. The same red coloration found on its legs and feet. The tips of its tail feathers are light brown in color, with chestnut colored feathers under the tail. It has a unique grey colored, crescent-shaped patch of bare skin covering its ears, a character not found in other curassows.[3] The distinct coloration separates M.mitu as its own species distinct from other curassow species. Sexual dimorphism is not pronounced: females tend to be lighter in color and slightly smaller in size.[6] The birds can live to more than twenty four years in captivity.[7] Video recording in captivity show that this cracid sporadically makes a high-pitched chirping sound.[8]


Since 1977, the entire Mitu mitu population has been in captivity. The population numbered 44 in 2000, and by 2008, there were 130 birds in two aviaries. About 35% of the birds were hybrids with

M. tuberosum.[5]

Habitat and ecology

Mitu mitu native habitat is subtropical/tropical moist lowland primary forest, where it was known to consume fruit of Phyllanthus, Eugenia and "mangabeira." It is extinct and extirpated in its native range in Alagoas and Pernambuco states,

Breeding habits

Due to their absence in the wild and lack of study previously conducted on these cracids before their extinction in the wild, not much is known about their breeding habits outside of captivity. Alagoas curassow females begin reproducing at about 2 years old. In captivity, they produce about 2–3 eggs each year.[3] There has been a greater genetic variability amongst the Alagoas curassow after 1990, when hybrid breeding programs were introduced; Alagoas curassows were bred with closely related razor-billed curassows.[5]


The Alagoas curassow was first mentioned by

brown eumelanin in the tail tip. Its lineage has been distinct since the Miocene-Pliocene boundary (approximately 5 million years ago), when it became isolated in refugia in the Atlantic Forest.[9]

Conservation efforts

As this species is extinct in the wild, the total population of 130 birds only persists in two separate captive populations. A reintroduction plan is being organized, though it faces challenges. Even if the population could be bred to healthy numbers, the species would need to be reintroduced into a large natural geographical area. Human expansion and overpopulation has caused nearly all of the Alagoas curassow's natural habitat to be destroyed. One potential reintroduction site has been proposed. Precautions would have to be taken in order to prevent illegal hunting of the species after reintroduction.[4]


The Alagoas curassow became

aviaries in Brazil mainly due to lack of official interest owing to the long-standing doubt about the taxon
's validity.

Diet and interactions

The Alagoas curassow is known to consume a diet of fruits and nuts. Although not much information is known about this species' interactions and behavior in the wild, the stomach contents of these birds were found to contain fruits specifically from the castelo tree. It has also been said that they enjoy fruits from the plant Clarisia racemosa.[11] Generally, the female birds weigh less than the males and lay about 2–3 eggs a year. The average lifespan in captivity is about 24 years.

The lack of knowledge about their behavior in the wild makes it difficult to know how the birds interact with other species. The impact of their introduction on interactions with other species is difficult to predict. For instance, the

Chamek spider monkey also eats Clarisia racemosa, which could lead to competition with the Alagoas curassow.[11] A lack of genetic diversity is another potential concern. Scientists have been controlling the sexual interactions within the species by pairing certain birds together in order to reduce hybridization and maintain the original Alagoas curassow.[4]

  • Illustration from the 1650s
    Illustration from the 1650s

Future of the species

With the objective to preserve the species and to increase genetic variability in the population, the "original" stock had their DNA examined by scientists in order to guide future pairings. Once a captive population has been successfully created, they can start being reintroduced back into the wild. The more ideal locations would be large forest remnants, such as those located at Usina Utinga-Leão and Usina Serra Grande.[4]


  1. . Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  2. ^ "Appendices | CITES". Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  3. ^ a b c Harry, Tim (6 December 2006). "Bird Facts Alagoas Curassow". Birds: Critters 360. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e Silveira, Luís Fábio; Olmos, Fábio; Long, Adrian J (2004). "Taxonomy, history, and status of Alagoas Curassow Mitu mitu (Linnaeus, 1766), the world's most threatened cracid" (PDF). Ararajuba. 12 (2): 43–50. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007.
  5. ^ a b c d "Alagoas Curassow". Birdlife International. 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  6. ^ Sick, Helmut (1980). "Characteristics of the Razor-Billed Curassow (Mitu Mitu Mitu)" (PDF). Ornitologia Neotropical. Neotropical Ornithological Society. 82 (2): 227–228.
  7. ^ "Alagoas Curassow". The Website of Everything. 2010. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  8. ^ Bonafé, José de Alencar (15 December 2003). "Mitu mitu in captivity in Poços de Caldas". The Internet Bird Collection.
  9. S2CID 19977508. Archived from the original
    (PDF) on 10 September 2008.
  10. ^ Another case of successful interbreeding between quite distant species, as is often found in cracids. See for example Crax species.
  11. ^ a b "Mitu mitu (Alagoas Curassow)". 2012. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 25 October 2013.


Further reading

External links