Rufous-vented Chachalaca, Ortalis ruficauda
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Family: Cracidae
Genus: Ortalis
Merrem, 1786

12-15 (extant), see text.

Chachalacas are mainly brown birds from the genus Ortalis. These cracids are found in wooded habitats in far southern United States (Texas), Mexico, and Central and South America. They are social, can be very noisy and often remain fairly common even near humans, as their relatively small size makes them less desirable to hunters than their larger relatives. They somewhat resemble the guans, and the two have commonly been placed in a subfamily together, though the chachalacas are probably closer to the curassows.[1]

The generic name is derived from the Greek word όρταλις, meaning "pullet"[2] or "domestic hen."[3] The common name is an onomatopoeia for the four-noted cackle of the Plain Chachalaca (O. vetula).[4]

Mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequence data tentatively suggests that the chachalacas emerged as a distinct lineage during the Oligocene, somewhere around 40-20 mya, possibly being the first lineage of modern cracids to evolve; this does agree with the known fossil record - including indeterminate, cracid-like birds - which very cautiously favors a north-to-south expansion of the family.[1]



Prehistoric species

The cracids have a very poor fossil record, essentially being limited to a few chachalacas. The prehistoric species of the present genus, however, indicate that chachalacas most likely evolved in North or northern Central America:

  • Ortalis tantala (Early Miocene of Nebraska, USA)
  • Ortalis pollicaris (Flint Hill Middle Miocene of South Dakota, USA)
  • Ortalis affinis (Ogallala Early Pliocene of Trego County, USA)
  • Ortalis phengites (Snake Creek Early Pliocene of Sioux County, USA)

The Early Miocene fossil Boreortalis from Florida is also a chachalaca; it may actually be referrable to the extant genus.


  1. ^ a b Pereira, S. #X. R. L.; Baker, A. J.; Wajntal, A. (2002). "Combined Nuclear and Mitochondrial DNA Sequences Resolve Generic Relationships within the Cracidae (Galliformes, Aves)". Systematic Biology 51 (6): 946. doi:10.1080/10635150290102519. PMID 12554460.  edit Free version
  2. ^ Waue, Roland H. (1999). Heralds of Spring in Texas. Texas A&M University Press. p. 18. ISBN 9780890968796. 
  3. ^ Arnott, William Geoffrey (2007). Birds in the Ancient World from A to Z. Routledge. p. 235. ISBN 9780415238519. 
  4. ^ Leopold, Aldo Starker (1972). Wildlife of Mexico: the Game birds and Mammals. University of California Press. p. 212. ISBN 9780520007246. 
  5. ^ Glowinski, S. L. 2007. The rediscovery of the Utila Island Chachalaca (Ortalis vetula deschauenseei). Bulletin of the Cracid Specialist Group. Vol. 23: 28-29.

External links

Media related to Ortalis at Wikimedia Commons Data related to Ortalis at Wikispecies

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Chachalaca — Cha cha*la ca, n. [Native name, prob. given in imitation of its cry.] (Zo[ o]l.) The Texan guan ({Ortalis vetula}). [written also {chiacalaca}.] [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • chachalaca — (Del nahua chachayaut, frec. de chalaní, hablar mucho, gorjear). 1. f. Am. Cen. y Méx. Ave galliforme de plumaje café verdoso y vientre blanco; el macho tiene cresta y barbas. Es voladora y vocinglera y su carne es comestible. 2. Am. Cen. y Méx.… …   Diccionario de la lengua española

  • chachalaca — ► sustantivo femenino México, América Central ZOOLOGÍA Ave galliforme de plumas muy largas, verdes y tornasoladas en la cola, sin cresta ni barba, de carne comestible y que emite un grito estridente. (Ortalis vetula.) * * * chachalaca (de or.… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • chachalaca — /chah cheuh lah keuh/; Sp. /chah chah lah kah/, n., pl. chachalacas / keuhz/; Sp. / kahs/. any of several slender guans of the genus Ortalis, of Central America, Mexico, and southern Texas, having loud, harsh cries. [1850 55, Amer.; < MexSp …   Universalium

  • chachalaca — {{#}}{{LM C41801}}{{〓}} {{[}}chachalaca{{]}} ‹cha·cha·la·ca› {{《}}▍ s.f.{{》}} {{<}}1{{>}} Ave parecida a la gallina, de color pardo, cola larga y verdosa, ojos rojos y plumas en la cresta. {{<}}2{{>}} {{※}}col.{{¤}} {{♂}}En zonas del español… …   Diccionario de uso del español actual con sinónimos y antónimos

  • chachalaca — čačalakos statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Ortalis angl. chachalaca rus. чачалака, f pranc. ortalide, f ryšiai: platesnis terminas – penelopės siauresnis terminas – baltapilvė čačalaka siauresnis terminas – čakinė čačalaka …   Paukščių pavadinimų žodynas

  • chachalaca — noun slender arboreal guan resembling a wild turkey; native to Central America and Mexico; highly regarded as game birds • Hypernyms: ↑gallinaceous bird, ↑gallinacean • Hyponyms: ↑Texas chachalaca, ↑Ortilis vetula macalli • Member Holonyms: ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • chachalaca — noun Any of several cracid birds, of the genus Ortalis, limited to the Americas, that resemble the guans …   Wiktionary

  • chachalaca — s f 1 (Ortalis vetula) Ave de la familia de los crácidos, de diversas especies, según la región, y semejante a la gallina; su plumaje es generalmente pardo oliváceo, claro por arriba; tiene una cola larga verdosa con algunos brillos metálicos (la …   Español en México

  • chachalaca —   tipo de ave …   Diccionario de Guanacastequismos

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