Curl-Crested Aracari

Curl-Crested Araçari (Pteroglossus beauharnaisii)


The curl-crested araçari is the only bird with a curly-crested crown and is the second largest araçari. This docile South American toucan inhabits tropical and subtropical forests of Bolivia, Peru, and Brazil, foraging for fruiting trees in flocks of 4-12. Not as vocal as other araçaris, it makes a variety of calls.

Source: Dantas, S. (2007, August 26). XC20953 [Audio file]. Xeno-Canto.


The curl-crested araçari is one of the more spectacularly plumaged araçari and one of the more stranger looking birds. This species is often considered to be exquisitely beautiful and the most attractive and colorful of the smaller toucans.

Apart from the bizarre head ornamentation, the curl-crested araçari is a quite pretty toucan, with a red back, gray crown, and yellow breast. The underparts contain increasing red blotches and a single red and black breast band. The upperparts are dark green with a dark red mantle and rump. The bare skin around the eyes is blue and the whitish-yellow facial feathers have hardened black tips.

The curl-crested araçari has an over-sized, heavy, colorful bill that allows it to pluck fruit from vegetation as well as drink water from the crevices of trees. The bill is relatively short, compared to other toucan species, and female curl-crested araçaris have shorter bills than males. The ornately-patterned, multicolored bill has a blue and maroon upper bill, ivory lower bill, and an orange tip.

The tail is relatively long, compared to other toucans, and varies in color but has a greenish-bronze dominant color.

The curl-crested araçari has zygodactylous toes as two point forward and two point backwards.

The curl-crested araçari has more diffuse facial patterns than other araçaris. It also has different underparts and bill patterns from the lettered araçari (Pteroglossus inscriptus) and ivory-billed araçari (Pteroglossus azara), two features that are important in identifying aracaris. It is more similar to chestnut-eared araçari (Pteroglossus castanotis), which also has yellow underparts with a single red breast band. Chestnut-eared differs by having a dark brown, as opposed to yellow throat, a mostly dark bill, and is found more in riverine habitats, as opposed to terra firme forest.

The curl-crested araçari is smaller than most toucans and measures 40-46 centimeters, or 16-18 inches long, and weighs 164-280 grams, or 6-10 ounces. It is tied with the black-necked araçari (Pteroglossus aracari) as the second largest araçari after the chestnut-eared araçari (Pteroglossus castanotis). Both sexes are alike, but females have shorter bills.

Unlike any other araçari, or any other bird, the curl-crested araçari has modified glossy head feathers that resemble shiny black pieces of plastic, enamel, or curled ribbon which are only visible up-close. These feathers feel like plastic.

The curl-crested araçari’s generation length is 7 years.

Larger Male Bills
40-46 cm. / 16-18 in.
164-280 g. / 6-10 oz.
18 yr.
7 yr.



The curl-crested araçari is one of over 40 species of birds in the family Ramphastidae, the South American barbets, toucans, toucanets, and araçaris. The family includes five extant genera, Aulacorhynchus, the green toucanets; Pteroglossus, the araçaris; Selenidera, the dichromatic toucanets; Andigena, the mountain toucans; and Ramphastos, the typical toucans. There are over forty different species in the toucan family.

These Neotropical, near passerine birds are most closely related to the American barbets from the Capitonidae family.

The curl-crested araçari was first described by Johann Georg Wagler in 1832.

Because of its relatively long tail and curly crest, the curl-crested araçari was formerly placed in the monotypic genus or subgenus Beauharnaisius, but genetic data indicates that this species is embedded within Pteroglossus, being sister-species to the Eastern red-necked araçari (Pteroglossus bitorquatus).



The curl-crested araçari gets its common name from its curly crest.

There is debate over whether the curl-crested araçari’s scientific name should be spelled Pteroglossus beauharnaesii or Pteroglossus beauharnaesii.

Pteroglossus beauharnaesii has been in universal use since 1900 and is protected either by Article 23.9 or 33.3.1 of the Code, depending on the interpretation of the way the younger name was introduced. Under the International Code of Zoological Nomencalture, the valid form and source of the scientific name for the curl-crested araçari should remain Pteroglossus beauharnaesii. Although it is an incorrect subsequent spelling, its challenger, Pteroglossus beauharnaisii, is a nomen oblitum.

Curly-Crested Araçari
Chick, Fledgling, Hatchling

The curl-crested araçari is endemic to South America and has an extremely large range across Bolivia, Brazil, and Peru.

The curl-crested araçari is restricted to lowland terra firme forest of western Amazonia in southern Peru (south of the Amazon), western Brazil, and northern Bolivia. The bird is found in the south-western section of the Amazon Basin, with the Amazon River being its northern range limit. Near the Amazon River, its range extends east to about the Madeira River, while in the southern half of its range it extends east to the Xingu River.

It is generally rare to uncommon, but regularly seen at several localities, including the Tambopata National Reserve in Peru, the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park in Bolivia, and the Cristalino State Park near Alta Floresta in Brazil.

The bird has an estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) of 2,870,000 kilometers squared.

The curl-crested araçari’s population is not severely fragmented, and all individuals do not reside in one subpopulation. It generally occupies at a density of c. 1 bird/10-12 ha. or c. 8 birds/100 ha.

The curl-crested araçari overlaps in terra firme forest with both lettered araçari (Pteroglossus inscriptus) and ivory-billed araçari (Pteroglossus azara).

Bolivia, Brazil, Peru

The curl-crested araçari inhabits forest habitats including subtropical and tropical moist lowlands and swamps. They are commonly found along river edges. Curl-crested araçaris frequently forage in the mid-level and canopy of forest edges, looking for fruiting trees. They will also go to small bushes in clearings to feed and has been seen on the ground, presumably feeding with other bird species.

The curl-crested araçari’s upper elevation limit is 500 meters.

The quality of the curl-crested araçari’s habitat is unknown.

Subtropical/Tropical Moist Lowland, Subtropical/Tropical Swamp



Curl-crested araçaris are docile, peaceful, social birds and fly about in flocks of four to 12, calling frequently. They will sometimes flock with other species of araçaris. They will sleep with up to five adults and their fledged offspring in the same nesting hole. Curl-crested araçaris sleep with their long tails folded over their backs.

The curl-crested araçari is arboreal and partially terrestrial. It has been seen on the ground, presumably feeding with other bird species.

The curl-crested araçari calls frequently, but is not as vocal as other araçaris. Its calls are very different from other araçaris and it makes sounds with much variability, fast to slow, deep to soft. The curl-crested araçari has very variable, deep rrek notes, soft rrr to hard, even grunting grenk notes, in series. It also makes a loud rising eeee-yak yelp that has been reported to sound rather raptor-like. This species makes sounds with much variability, fast to slow, deep to soft, and even grunting vocalizations.

The curl-crested araçari is not a migrant and is not migratory.



The curl-crested araçari’s diet is poorly known, but it is known to be primarily a frugivore. Fruits, such as figs and those of Ocotea, make up the vast majority of its diet.

Curl-crested araçari will also eat eggs and take nestlings of birds, such as the yellow-rumped cacique (Cacicus cela). This is thought to happen most when the araçari is nesting.

Curl-crested araçaris frequently forage in the mid-level and canopy of forest edges, looking for fruiting trees. They will also go to small bushes in clearings to feed and has been seen on the ground, presumably feeding with other bird species.




Very little is known about the curl-crested araçari’s reproduction. No courtship has been noticed in captivity, other than increased interest in nest logs and the birds spending more time inside nests. Courtship may consist of bill slapping and perhaps allopreening.

Data from curl-crested araçari specimens indicates a breeding season of May to August, occasionally to November or even February. Mating has been recorded in June in Mato Grosso.

During the breeding season, curl-crested araçari pairs will separate from the flock for nesting.

The curl-crested araçari is known to nest in abandoned tree hollows and cavities, finding hollowed crevices or snags to modify for egg-laying and incubation and even utilizing old woodpecker holes. Some hollows are the result of a branch break and ensuing rotting of the heart wood from rain over a period of time. Captive curl-crested araçaris may breed in nest boxes with a concave bottom; however, they generally prefer natural nests constructed from palm tree logs, which allows them to dig their nest chambers deeper. Males tend to modify the nest site and coax the female to it for her approval.

Female curl-crested araçaris lay three to six pure-white, elliptical-shaped eggs in the hollow nest cavity floor where only a few wood chips may remain. Both parents incubate the eggs for about 16-18 days.

Curl-crested araçari chicks are born blind and naked with short bills and thick pads on their heels to protect them from the rough floor of the nest. They sleep with up to five adults in the nest hole.

The curl-crested araçari has both maternal and paternal parental investment as both parents help brood the chicks. Both parents incubate the eggs for about 16-18 days, brood and feed the offspring which develop quite slowly, and share in nest cleaning duties. Previous offspring and possibly other adult curl-crested araçari will also feed the chicks.

Fledging occurs in 43-50 days. Adults continue to feed the young for several weeks after fledging. Afterward, the young may form small family groups that can last until the next breeding season or until they are chased from the area.

1 Year
Maternal, Paternal
16-18 Days
43-50 Days
1-2 Years

Predators probably include a wide variety of bird-eating raptors such as white hawk (Pseudastur albicollis), ornate hawk-eagle (Spizaetus ornatus), and collared forest-falcon (Micrastur semitorquatus).

The curl-crested araçari is not a common species kept in captivity in the United States.

The San Diego Zoo kept some curl-crested araçaris and some of their offspring ended up at the Dallas World Aquarium. In 2004, Jerry Jennings, the president and director of Emerald Forest Bird Gardens in Fallbrook, California imported the species and sold some to the Dallas World Aquarium and the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, South Carolina.

Now, over 40 pairs of curl-crested araçari are scattered around the United States and Jerry Jennings has 14 breeding pairs. As such, there is sufficient breeding pairs set up for the species to be available to private aviculturists. Their friendly disposition makes them fantastic pets. As hand-fed babies, they readily imprint on their human companions and quickly bond. They are easily trained to potty in the appropriate place as well as do a number of unique bird tricks. They are curious, inquisitive and playful and a delight both in appearance and personality.

These active araçaris require large, planted flights. Aaraçaris are generally docile and can be kept with smaller birds, but not birds so small that they or their young could be considered as prey by these large birds, such as finches. Breeding pairs are best kept alone.

Local, National



The curl-crested araçari is evaluated as Least Concern on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species due to an extremely large range and a decreasing population that is not declining rapidly.


The curl-crested araçari has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation).

Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure).

The curl-crested araçari’s global population size has not been quantified, but the species is described as rare to uncommon.

Not Fragmented

The curl-crested araçari is suspected to lose 16.3-20.6% of suitable habitat within its distribution over three generations (21 years) based on a model of Amazonian deforestation.

The curl-crested araçari has a decreasing population trend and is suspected to decline by less than 25% over three generations. The continuing decline in the curl-crested araçari’s area of occupancy (AOO), extent of occurrence (EOO), and in subpopulations; the number of locations experiencing a continuing decline; and the continuing decline of mature individuals is unknown, but there does not appear to be extreme fluctuations.


There is no action recovery plan, systemic monitoring schemes, or invasive species control and prevention in place for the curl-crested araçari. The species is also not subject to ex-situ conservation. However, conservation sites for the curl-crested araçari have been identified over its entire range.

The curl-crested araçari is not subject to recent education and awareness programs, is not included in international legislation, and is not subject to any international management or trade controls.


Curl-Crested Araçari

The curl-crested araçari is not a common species kept in captivity in the United States, but their friendly disposition makes them well-suited pets.

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