White-winged guan -- 白翅冠雉 (Penelope albipennis)

Captive white-winged guan, part of captive breeding project
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White-winged guan fact file

White-winged guan description

GenusPenelope (1)

First discovered in 1876, the white-winged guan was believed extinct for nearly a century thereafter, until its surprise rediscovery in 1977 (4) (5). Initially thought to be a possible variant of the similar Baudo guan (Penelope ortoni) or crested guan (Penelope purpurascens) (4), this medium-sized guan can, as its name suggests, be distinguished from all other Penelope species by the white primary feathers of the wings (2) (4) (6). The rest of the body is black, with whitish flecking on the neck, upper breast and wing-coverts, and the beak is blue, with a black tip. An area of purple facial skin surrounds the eye, and the bare orange-red or purple throat bears a large, double-lobed flap of coloured skin, known as a dewlap. The legs and feet are light brownish red (2) (4) (6). The calls of the white-winged guan include a deep, hoarse och, och, och, given mainly at dawn and during the breeding season, and a sharp cau, cau, cau, which can be heard from up to three kilometres away (2).

Pava Aliblanca.
Length: 85 cm (2)

White-winged guan biology

The white-winged guan is usually found in pairs or small family groups, with groups of up to ten individuals foraging together during the non-breeding season (4) (5). The diet consists mainly of plant material, including fruit, flowers, leaves, buds and seeds, as well as the shoots of maize, sweet potato and bean crops (2) (4) (5) (7) (8). A few insects may also possibly be taken (4) (5). The white-winged guan is territorial, especially during the breeding season, when it gives distinctive loud calls (5). Breeding usually takes place between January and August, and clutch size is normally two to three eggs (2). The nest may be placed a few metres up in a tree, usually close to water and in an area of dense vegetation, but little else is known about the breeding behaviour of this species (4) (5) (9).


White-winged guan range

The white-winged guan survives in just a small area of north-west Peru (2) (4) (5) (7). Although probably once more widespread, and potentially extending into Ecuador, the species is currently only known from the regions of Lambayeque, Piura and Cajamarca in Peru (2) (4) (5).


White-winged guan habitat

This guan inhabits dry wooded slopes and ravines, typically favouring valleys with permanent water in the form of streams or waterholes, or dry, undisturbed deciduous forest with dense cover. The white-winged guan is usually found at elevations of around 300 to 1,300 metres, and may once have also occurred in lowland and coastal forest (2) (4) (5) (7). It is believed to undertake some seasonal movements, but these are not well understood (2) (4) (7).


White-winged guan status

The white-winged guan is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered


White-winged guan threats

The initial decline in the white-winged guan was believed to result from overhunting, which continues to be a threat today and which may also explain the species’ disappearance from coastal areas. In addition, the white-winged guan is under pressure from habitat destruction and fragmentation, with forests being cleared for agriculture, timber, charcoal, firewood and artisanal woodcrafts (2) (4) (5) (9) (10). Indeed, over 90 percent of the original forest cover of the region may have already been removed (11), and the guan’s decline was exacerbated after land reforms in 1968 allowed greater public access to privately owned land (4) (5). After its rediscovery in 1977, the white-winged guan was believed to number only a few hundred birds at most, and is estimated at around 150 to 250 individuals today (2) (4) (5) (7), with around 75 birds held in captivity in 2007 (2). In addition to its small size and restricted range, the population is also severely fragmented, with only a small number of individuals known from most sites (2) (4).


White-winged guan conservation

The white-winged guan has been the subject of a range of conservation efforts since its rediscovery. International trade in the species is banned under its listing on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (3), and the white-winged guan and its habitat are legally protected within the Laquipampa Wildlife Refuge, an area established specifically to protect this species (2) (7) (10). In 1980, a captive breeding programme was set up (4) (12) (13) (14) (15), and the first captive-bred birds were reintroduced to Chaparri Private Conservation Area, a community owned and managed reserve, in 2001 (2) (9) (14) (16). Training programmes were provided for park guards (2) (10) (13), and the programme has also involved environmental education and outreach in local communities (2) (7) (12) (14) (17). The released birds have started breeding successfully in the wild, with over 50 wild-born chicks already added to the population (2) (15) (16) (17).

Further reintroductions have also taken place in Laquipampa Wildlife Reserve (7) and efforts are continuing to identify other potential reintroduction sites, such as El Angolo Hunting Reserve in Piura (2) (9). In addition to continued population monitoring, it has been recommended that more areas be surveyed for the presence of white-winged guans, and that a national conservation strategy be prepared for the species, as well as developing the potential for ecotourism, and undertaking further research into white-winged guan biology and behaviour (2) (5) (7) (15). With concerted conservation efforts, the success of the captive breeding programme and the involvement of local communities, it is hoped that the status of the white-winged guan may be improving, and that the future of this rare bird may now be more secure (2).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

To find out more about the conservation of the white-winged guan see:

To find out more about efforts to save some of the world’s most endangered species see:


This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:



Small feathers concealing the bases of larger flight feathers, usually on the wings or tail.
Deciduous forest
Forest consisting mainly of deciduous trees, which shed their leaves at the end of the growing season.
A fold of loose skin hanging below the throat.
Primary feathers
In birds, the main flight feathers projecting along the outer edge of the wing.
Describes an animal, a pair of animals or a colony that occupies and defends an area.


  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2009)
  2. BirdLife International (December, 2009)
  3. CITES (December, 2009)
  4. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1994) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  5. BirdLife International (1992) White-winged guan Penelope albipennis. In: BirdLife International. Threatened Birds of the Americas. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK. Available at:
  6. Blake, E.R. (1977) Manual of Neotropical Birds. Volume 1: Spheniscidae (Penguins) to Laridae (Gulls and Allies). University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London.
  7. Hirschfeld, E. (2008) BirdLife International: Rare Birds Yearbook. MagDig Media Limited, Shrewsbury.
  8. Martos, J.R., Scarpati, M., Rojas, C. and Delgado, G.E. (2009) Phenology of some species that are food for the white-winged guan Penelope albipennis. Revista Peruana de Biología, 15(2): 51-58.
  9. Angulo, F. and Barrio, J. (2004) Evaluation of a potential reintroduction site for the white-winged guan Penelope albipennis (Aves, Cracidae) in northern Peru. Oryx, 38(4): 448-451.
  10. Brooks, D.M. and Strahl, S.D. (2000) Curassows, Guans and Chachalacas: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan for Cracids 2000-2004. IUCN/SSC Cracid Specialist Group, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. Available at:
  11. Alliance for Zero Extinction: Project Profile - Zona Reservada de Laquipampa, Peru (December, 2009)
  12. Pratolongo, F.A. (2008) Current status and conservation of wild and reintroduced white-winged guan (Penelope albipennis) populations. Ornitologia Neotropical, 19: 279-286.
  13. Pautrat, L. (2000) Progress in the conservation of the white-winged guan Penelope albipennis in north-west Peru. Bird Conservation International, 10: 93-95.
  14. BirdLife International (2002) Reintroduction of the white-winged guan in Peru (Penelope albipennis). BirdLife in the Americas, 5(2): 2-3. Available at:
  15. World Pheasant Association (December, 2009)
  16. Chaparrí Reserve (December, 2009)
  17. American Bird Conservancy (December, 2009)

Image credit

Captive white-winged guan, part of captive breeding project  
Captive white-winged guan, part of captive breeding project

© Mark Jones / gettyimages.com

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