Curassow, a name given to two genera of birds of the order gallince, and the family cra-cidce; the two genera arecrazand pavxi, both peculiar to America. The curassows have the bill moderately long, strong, generally elevated at the base, with the culmen curved, and the sides compressed to the obtuse tip; the nostrils are lateral and large, with an opening partly closed by a crescentic or rounded membrane; the hind toe is long, and on the same plane with the others. - In the genus crax the bill is moderate; the wings short and rounded, with the sixth to the eighth quills equal and the longest; the tail long and rounded; the tarsal robust, longer than the middle toe, and covered in front by broad scales; the toes long, strong, and covered with prominent scales, the lateral toes being equal; the claws are moderate, compressed, and curved. Six species are described, of which the most interesting are: 1. The crested curassow (C. alector, Linn.), of a general black color, with the lower belly white, and the cere yellow; the head is ornamented with a crest of recurved and frizzled feathers, radiated, alternately white and black; the sides of the head and base of the bill are bare; at certain ages the body, wings, and tail are banded with white. It is 3 ft. long, about as large as a turkey.
This species has frequently been carried to Europe from Guiana, and is the one generally seen in collections; in addition to its pleasing appearance, it is mild and social in its manners, and affords a savory and nutritious article of food. It inhabits the forests of tropical America in large flocks, whose peaceable members seem not to fear man unless in the neighborhood of dwellings. The nest is very rude, placed upon dry branches on trees, and lined with leaves; the eggs are from two to six, white, resembling those of the turkey. Though living in the wildest localities, it exhibits a remarkable disposition to become tame, and flocks of them are frequently domesticated; they perch on roofs and high trees; they are easily reared, as almost any vegetable food agrees with them; maize, rice, bread, potatoes, and all kinds of fruits, are eagerly eaten by them. 2. The globose curassow (G. globicera, Linn.) is distinguished by a callous globular tubercle at the base of the bill, inclining backward, covered, like the base of the mandibles, with a bright yellow cere; the general color is black, with the vent and tip of the tail white.
This bird unites with the preceding and the next species, producing hybrids, which may be more or less continued by intermixture of the primitive stocks, presenting a very great variety of colors; from this has arisen many a supposed new species. 3. The red curassow (C. rubra, Linn.) has no tubercle on the bill, and has the region of the eyes feathered; the color of the under parts is a bright chestnut, with the head, neck, and tail banded with black and white, and occasionally with yellow. 4. The wattled cura-sow (G. carunculata, Temm.) has the head black, the belly chestnut, and the. cere and naked parts red, with a black crest. The other species are G. globulosa (Spix), and G. urumu-tum (Spix). - In the genus pauxi the bill is short and the culmen is elevated and much curved; the sixth and seventh quills are equal and the longest; the greater part of the head is covered with short velvety feathers. Three species are described: 1. The cushew curassow (P. galeata, Lath.), with a hard and thick oval blue tubercle at the base of the bill; general color black, but about the vent and the end of the tail white; it is about the size of a turkey, and, like the other curassows, is readily domesticated. 2. The razor-billed curassow (P. mitu, Linn.) is smaller than the preceding, being about 2 1/2 ft. long; of a black color, with the belly chestnut. 3. The P. tomentosa (Spix). - The curassows (or hoccos, as they are sometimes called) and the pauxis, with the penelope or guan, are to South America what the turkey is to North America; in the state of domestication they exhibit the same traits and habits as ordinary poultry; they are polygamous, many females being attached to a single male; they are easily acclimated in Europe, and of course would be in the United States; they live in peace with other gallinaceous birds, and rarely utter any discordant cries.
The flight of the curassows is heavy and ill sustained; but they run with great rapidity, carrying the tail pendent. According to Sonnini, their cry may be represented by the syllables "po-hic;" in addition to this they make a dull humming sound, as does the turkey, variously modified by the remarkable sinuosities of the windpipe. The trachea in the cracidoe differs from that of other gallinaceous birds in its remarkable circumvolutions. In the curassows proper they take place at the lower part of the neck, or in the thoracic cavity; in the pauxis they are directed on the muscles of the breast, immediately under the integuments; but in none of them does the trachea form its convolutions in the interior of the breast bone, as in the swans. In the crested curassow the trachea is flattened, chiefly membranous, with the rings entire and very distant from each other; it describes a broad curve between the bones of the furca, goes back two inches over the muscles of the neck, and then makes a second circumvolution, from which it takes the usual form as far as the lower larynx, where it is suddenly dilated.
In the pauxi, the trachea at the opening of the thorax ascends over the right great pectoral muscle at a distance from the crest of the breast bone, continues along this muscle, and forms a curve passing somewhat behind this bone; it then proceeds over the left pectoral muscle, making a turn on the side of the breast bone, passing behind it above the first curve; then it turns again to the right, and passes over the right clavicle into the cavity of the chest. The windpipe may be shortened or lengthened by muscular action. This conformation is doubtless connected with the loud and sonorous voices of these birds. The curassows are extensively distributed over America, being found in the Guianas, Brazil, Paraguay, Mexico, Central America, and probably some of the West India islands.
Crested Curassow (Crax alector).
Red Curassow (Crax rubra).
Cushew Curassow (Pauxi galeata).
Razor-billed Curassow (Pauxi mitu).