Plain Chachalaca ... Hardly !
by Christine Donald, Outdoor Recreation Planner, Santa Ana NWR
published June 2016
The Plain Chachalaca (chah-chuh-lah-kuh) is a large chicken-like
bird in the family Cracidae whose origins are in Mexico and
Central America. Here in the United States they can only be found
in Southern Texas.
However, calling the Chachalaca plain just isn't right!
There is nothing at all plain about these fascinating birds which
I call "Chachies". If you get bored watching them, then you aren't
really paying attention to what's going on. They are cuckoo! No
pun intended. When you come to Santa Ana NWR in the morning,
they will greet you with their loud raucous calls that seem to be in
surround sound. Peering up into the trees you will see several of
these birds calling out to others all around the refuge.
To some this may be an annoying cacophony,
however, to me it is the "Chachie Symphony"
which greets me as I arrive to work each morning.
Not classical music, but definitely one of
the wondrous sounds of nature which I always
enjoy when I am outside.
Morning feeding time always brings in the
Chachies, like somebody ringing a dinner bell,
here they come. Chachies get use to people
quickly. They will walk right up to you impatiently
waiting to be fed. If you are a little slow
to get the chow out for them they often come
right up to the window and look into the building
as if to say, "Hurry up, you're late, we're
It they could knock on the door they would.
They are intriguing to watch during breeding
Chachies' tempers fly as the males chase each
other and fly all over the place, often in an ungraceful
manner. I had one almost run into me
in its frenzied attempt to get away from another
Sometimes these large birds, up to a pound
and a half, will land on tree branches too thin
to fully support their weight. It is comical to
watch them bobbing and bouncing low to the
ground while the thin branch struggles to hold
My favorite time of the year is approaching
when I see the young poults out with their
The hen stays very busy trying to keep her
chicks hidden in the shrubs and bushes away
from hungry hawks.
Another generation of chachies born who will
live on the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge
adding to the natural beauty of the site.
Come on out to Santa Ana NWR to enjoy the
Chachalacas, but please ...
Don't Call Them Plain!
Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge
3325 Green Jay
Alamo, TX 78516