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Plain Chachalaca (Ortails vetula)

Plain Chachalaca call - Nueva Becal
First five syllables of sound file depicted
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Plain Chachalaca alarm call  - Calakmul
First eight syllables of sound file depicted
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Song Description:

The common call of the Chachalaca is a series of repeated three-syllable phrases often given in noisy choruses.  The Chachalaca's explosive alarm call can be likened to the hoarse bark of a dog and is composed of a series of sharp wide-bandwidth syllables.

Stiles and Skutch (1989) suggest other vocalizations including a peeping whistle and a cackle used as contact calls.

Song Measures:

Chachalaca calls contain anywhere from four to 50 or more phrases given at a rate of approximately four phrases every three seconds.  Each phrase is composed of three gruff syllables which may be recalled by chah-chah-lah.  Across a frequency range of 400 - 2800 Hz, areas of high power occur around 500 Hz and 950 - 1150 Hz. (N=12 calls from three individuals)

The syllables that make up the alarm call share similar frequency characteristics to the syllables of the common call.  Syllables are repeated at a minimum rate of one syllable per second, but sometimes as quickly as five syllables per second. (N= one long alarm call bout from one individual in Nueva Becal)

Singing Behaviour:

Chachalacas give their raucous calls, often in chorus with many nearby birds, from high within trees in the early morning and evening.  They are difficult to see through the forest canopy, but Howell and Webb (1995) report that they typically congregate in groups of four to 20.  Birds will remain silent for long periods, but when one individual starts to sing, many others join in as their chorus grows louder and louder and spreads through the canopy.

The single, long alarm call bout that I recorded was given from >30 meters up in a thick canopy, and I could not detect any disturbance from the ground.  The last four syllables were given in flight.


I found Chachalacas in thick second-growth forests and forest edges around Nueva Becal and Calakmul.

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All information and photographs copyright Daniel J. Mennill 1999.
No recordings or other information from this site may be used without written permission from me. 
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