Monday, August 19, 2013

Plain Chachalaca

Plain Chachalaca

I fell in love with the Plain Chachalacas the first time I saw them at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park in Mission, Texas.

All About Birds calls them "A large chicken-like bird of Mexico and Central America".

The Plain Chachalaca reaches the United States only in southern Texas. Its name comes from its loud, raucous calls. They don't really remind me of chickens, though, mainly because I think they are much smarter than your average chicken. They also forage mainly in trees instead of on the ground, sometimes hanging upside down to eat. This has earned them the nickname of Mexican Tree Pheasant.

Plain Chachalacas lay three to four eggs in nests that are either scratched depressions on the ground or a few twigs piled up, or sometimes they will rejuvenate nests used previously or adapt the nests of other birds

They are very cautious birds, always alert to their surroundings.

This one was glaring at a rabbit that was just out of frame.

The call of the Plain Chachalaca is unmistakable, a loud RAW-pa-haw or cha-cha-LAW-ka, often by several birds in a rhythmical chorus, especially in early morning and evening. I will go over to the park sometimes early in the morning just to listen to them.

I photographed this one at Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen,Texas. He was sounding an alarm about something that had startled him. I captured him sitting in the top of the tree with his head thrown back calling.

I was surprised to learn that Texas allows them to be hunted, from November to February. The limit is five birds a day.

So there you have it, my love affair with these funny, loud, unusual birds!


  1. I had no idea that they came that far north into the US. Great report and thanks for sharing your info.

  2. I enjoyed reading about this bird. It seems sad that they are hunted when they reach such a small area of your country. I specially like that last photo.

  3. Wow! This is the best post I have ever seen about this bird. I would love to see one for myself one day. Wonderful photos and narrative!

  4. What a wonderful looking bird, and the bottom image...that is spectacular!!!

  5. Terrific, informative post about this very interesting bird. Fantastic photographs!