There are many beautiful birds throughout the National Aviary -- the bright Rainbow Lorikeets, the sparkling Fairy Bluebirds, the powder-puff-pink Flamingos -- but only the Wattled Curassows look like they just spent hours getting ready to attend a formal dance.
Both male and female Curassows are a rich, glossy black, with deep brown eyes and an elegant crown of curls atop their heads. Males develop a bright red ornamental knob on their black bills; females display a more tasteful splash of crimson at their bill's base. Long, sprightly tail feathers bob as these birds strut about, showing off an underlayer of feathering (which for the male, rusty buff for the female) that extends partway down their legs like a set of old-fashioned pantaloons. All they need is a gold watch chain and a set of diamonD earrings to look ready for a night on the town.
The Wattled Curassow is native to the rainforests of South America, where its range includes parts of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. While once considered common, very little is known about them in the wild. Wattled Curassows are usually found in areas of forest prone to seasonal flooding, leading researchers to believe that such regular swamping is crucial to their habitat. It's assumed they have a diet much like other gallinaceous birds (seeds, fallen fruit, insects and small fish), but their actual diet in the wild is unknown. Wattled Curassows seem to spend more time walking along branches high up in the trees than other curassows, which makes it difficult to observe them in the wild.
Even so, comparing older records with more modern information reveals that Wattled Curassows are much more scarce in the wild than they were 100 years ago. Hunting and habitat destruction place a huge stress on these birds in the wild; locals hunt them for meat, just as we hunt turkeys, as well as for the snowy white vent feathers on the males. In 2010 the Wattled Curassow was officially listed as an Endangered Species.