Guans are a group of birds in the Cracidae family. They are similar in shape to pheasants, but their closest relatives are curassows and chachalacas. Scientists estimate that there are about 24 different species of these birds, which they separate into 6 different groups, or genuses. All species live in either Central or South America and the surrounding islands. Read on to learn about the Guan.

Description of the Guan

Each species of Guan is different from the next. Most species are primarily black or brown, oftentimes with speckles or dapples on their feathers. Several species have crests on their heads, or wattles on their throats, which are usually red in color. These birds are similar in size to wild turkeys. They range in length, with most individuals around 20 – 30 in. long or so.

Interesting Facts About the Guan

There are many different species of Guans throughout Central and South America, of which quite a few are odd-looking. Let’s highlight a few of these strange creatures below!

  • Horned Guan – Horned Guans look like most others, except for the fact that they have a strange horn-like growth coming out of the tops of their heads! Their “horns,” or crests, are bright red and can grow over two inches long. The IUCN lists this species as Endangered, primarily due to habitat loss.
  • Black-Fronted Piping Guan – This species is the punk-rock cousin of the family. They are primarily black, with a white “Mohawk” of color on their heads, and white lining around their eyes. Like the horned species, the IUCN also lists this species as Endangered.
  • Trinidad Piping Guan – Just when you though this section couldn’t get any sadder, we bring you this gravely endangered. Scientists estimate that there are less than 250 of these birds left in the wild, and that number is possibly as low as 50. Because of heavy hunting and continued habitat destruction, the IUCN lists this blue-faced bird as Critically Endangered.
  • The Problem of Habitat Loss – Sadly, the above examples are not isolated incidents. Several different species of these birds are in varying levels of danger. Human interaction usually leaves these birds, and many other animals, worse off. Of the different species of Guans, the IUCN lists one as critically endangered, five as endangered, four as vulnerable, and two as near-threatened.

Habitat of the Guan

Even though there are many different species of these birds, their habitat preference often overlaps. They live in forests, rainforests, scrubs, and other areas with dense vegetation.

Some species live close to sea level in lowland forests, while other species live in montane forests high in the mountains. Each species lives in different habitats, though many live in similar forest types.

Distribution of the Guan

Different Guan species live in different regions and countries. They range from Central America into South America. The range of each species varies, and some populations do overlap with one another. Some species are more widespread and common. Others have small populations that only live in a small, localized region.

Diet of the Guan

Most Guans are omnivores, and eat a wide variety of plant matter and invertebrates. However, some species are primarily frugivores, or fruit eaters. The amount of insects in the diet varies from species to species.

Each species is different, and some are more specialized to eating a specific type of food. Some of the different foods they eat include berries, fruits, leaves, flowers, spiders, beetles, and other insects and invertebrates.

Guan and Human Interaction

Human interaction varies from species to species. As a whole, the vast majority of Guan species suffer from habitat destruction to one degree or another. To put it simply, their habitats are disappearing.

Be it logging, agriculture, building roads, and urban spread, rainforests and other habitats are suffering. This impacts many different species of these birds, and some are under greater threat than others.


Humans have not domesticated Guans in any way.

Does the Guan Make a Good Pet

No, Guans do not make good pets. They are wild birds, and though they look a little like turkeys or pheasants, they are not as friendly or calm. It is also illegal in most places to own one as a pet.

Guan Care

In zoos, these birds often live in large enclosures like aviaries. They are particularly popular for walk-through aviaries because they like to forage on the ground, so people can spot them easier.

Their enclosures should have a variety of vegetation for them to hide in, and perches or branches for them to roost on. Their diet varies based on the species, but usually consists of a variety of fruit, mealworms, crickets, and pelleted bird feed for fruit-eating birds.

Behavior of the Guan

Individual behavior varies from species to species. Most Guans can fly, and roost or perch up in trees, but spend much of their time foraging for food on the ground. Social behavior varies from species to species.

Some are territorial, usually with males chasing away other males. Other species are more social, and live in small groups, known as flocks. They are quite vocal, and use a wide variety of calls to communicate with other Guans.

Reproduction of the Guan

Most male Guans mate with several different females during the breeding season. Females lay up to four eggs, and they normally care for the eggs and chicks alone. It takes about a month for the eggs to hatch.

The chicks are very well formed when they hatch, and some species can climb and perch on branches within the first day or so. Fledging time varies from species to species, with some species beginning to fly quite quickly.