Plain Chachalaca

Beautiful Birds of Belize Blog – Post #2

By Jim Gain


  • Scientific Name: Ortalis vetula
  • Name in Spanish (Mexico): Chachalaca Oriental
  • Name in Mayan: Baach’
  • ABA 4-Letter Bird Code: PLCH
  • Family: Cracidae – Chachalacas, Guans, and Curassows
  • Order: Galliformes – Gallinaceous Birds
Plain Chachalaca Image © Jim Gain

About this Bird

The Plain Chachalaca (Ortalis vetula) is a medium-sized bird that is found in the Yucatan Peninsula, which includes parts of Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. It is a member of the family Cracidae, which includes other game birds like turkeys and guans. The Plain Chachalaca is generally found in humid and semi-humid forests, as well as in areas of scrub and thorn forest.

Plain Chachalaca Image © Jim Gain

The Plain Chachalaca is a social bird that usually travels in groups of 6 to 12 individuals, although groups of up to 20 birds have been observed. They are primarily herbivorous, feeding on fruits, seeds, and leaves, and are an important seed disperser in their habitat. Their distinctive call, a loud and raucous “cha-cha-lac,” is often heard in the early morning and late afternoon, and is used by the birds to communicate with one another.

Plain Chachalaca Image © Jim Gain

During breeding season, which typically occurs in the early spring, males will call out loudly and perform courtship displays to attract females. The female will then build a shallow nest of twigs and leaves in a tree or shrub, and will lay 2 to 4 eggs. The chicks are precocial, meaning they are able to walk and feed themselves shortly after hatching, and will remain with their parents until they are able to fend for themselves.Overall, the Plain Chachalaca is an important and interesting bird in the Yucatan Peninsula, with its distinctive call and important role in seed dispersal. However, like many bird species, it is threatened by habitat loss due to human activities such as logging and agriculture. Conservation efforts are needed to ensure that this species and its habitat are protected for future generations.

>> Next Post on Friday, 3/24/2023 – Least Grebe

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