Neotropical Birds logo
Version 1.0

This is a historic version of this account.  Current version


Crested Guan Penelope purpurascens

Kadeem Gilbert and Thomas S. Schulenberg
Version: 1.0 — Published December 6, 2013


Distinguishing Characteristics

Penelope guans are large pheasantlike birds, with a long, thin neck, bluish bare skin on the face, a bare red dewlap on the throat, a short bushy crest, and a long tail. The plumage of these guans in primarily dark brown or blackish, usually with white streaks or scalloping, especially on the underparts. Crested Guan is a large Penelope. Its plumage is blackish brown, strongly glossed with green on the upperparts, head, neck and breast, and more bronzy on the rump and uppertail coverts. The neck, underparts, and back also are streaked with white.

Similar Species

Crested Guan is the northernmost member of the genus, and it is the only species of Penelope that occurs across most of its range. Baudo Guan (Penelepe ortoni) is restricted to western Colombia and western Ecuador; it is similar to Crested Guan but is significantly smaller, has drabber plumage, and may lack the loud "honking" vocalizations of Crested Guan. Andean (Penelope montagnii) and Band-tailed (Penelope argyrotis) guans are much smaller than Crested Guan, and typically occur at higher elevations (much higher elevations in the case of Andean Guan). There may be limited geographic overlap with Spix's Guan (Penelope jacquacu) at the base of the eastern Andes of Colombia. These two species are very similar, but Spix's Guan has a less developed crest, has narrower white scalloping on the neck and breast, and its lower underparts are more olive brown (less rufescent). No contact is known in Peru between Crested and White-winged (Penelope albipennis) guans. White-winged Guan is even more blackish than Crested Guan, and has primaries that are mostly white; the white in wings is very conspicuous when the wings are open, but sometimes is concealed when at rest.

Detailed Description

Adult: Sexes similar. Size of a small turkey, with large wings, very large tail, and rather small body. They are mainly dusky olive brown with a faint greenish or purplish iridescence. Feathers of breast and belly edged with white. Throat sparsely covered with bristles, the loose skin hanging in a small red wattle. Crown feathers normally erected as a crest (Leopold 1959; see also Ridgway and Friedmann 1946, Wetmore 1965, and Blake 1977).

Juvenile: Similar to adult, but wing and tail feathers washed with rufous brown, and mottled with blackish brown (Wetmore 1965).



Bare Parts

Iris: dark red

Facial skin: bare skin of side of head and chin are slaty black; bare throat somewhat dull red

Bill: blackish

Tarsi and toes: magenta

Bare parts color data from Leopold (1959) and Wetmore (1965).


Total length: 76-91 cm (Hilty 2003), 81-91 cm (Howell and Webb 1995), 84-91.5 cm (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001b), 86 cm (Stiles and Skutch 1989), 91 cm (Hilty and Brown 1986)

Linear measurements (from Blake 1977; aequatorialis):

male (n = 30)

wing length (flat): mean 368.9 mm (range 350-390 mm)

tail length: mean 333 mm (range 310-370 mm)

bill length (exposed culmen): 32.8 mm (range 27-36 mm)

tarsus length: mean 76.7 mm (range 71-86 mm)

female (n = 18)

wing length (flat): mean 350.1 mm (range 338-368 mm)

tail length: mean 325 mm (range 295-350 mm)

bill length (exposed culmen): 31.9 mm (range 26-36 mm)

tarsus length: mean 75 mm (range 65-83 mm)

Mass: male, 2050 g (n = 1; Robbins et al. 1985); female, 2000-2150 g (n = 2; Robbins et al. 1985); 1620-2430 g (n = ?, sexes combined?; Leopold 1959);  1700 g (n = ?, sexes combined?; Stiles and Skutch 1989)

Recommended Citation

Gilbert, K. and T. S. Schulenberg (2013). Crested Guan (Penelope purpurascens), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.cregua1.01