The New International Encyclopædia/Guan

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GUAN, gwän (South American name). A gallinaceous bird of Central and South America, often domesticated. It belongs to the same family (Cracidæ) as the curassow, the guans constituting the subfamily Penelopinæ. They have been separated into seven genera, of which Penelope (16 species) and Ortalis (19 species) are the largest. All are rather large, varying from the body size of a grouse to that of a goose. Their plumage is mainly black, glossed with green, and varied with white and brown; nearly all have the throat bare, and many have pendent gular wattles. Their heads are often crested, and their tails are long and gracefully carried. They go about in large flocks, but separate into pairs during the breeding season, and spend most of their time in the high forest trees, descending to the ground in search of fallen fruits, insects, and the like. Their nests are placed in trees, on bushes, or on the ground. Only one species ranges sufficiently far north to enter the United States. This is the Texan guan or ‘chachalaca’ (Ortalis vetula, var. McCalli), which is a dark, glossy, olivaceous-green bird nearly two feet long; but one-half of the length is due to the graduated tail of twelve feathers. It is noisy in the breeding season (April), the name chachalaca being imitative of its notes, which are as harsh and loud as those of a guinea-fowl; and all the guans of a neighborhood join in a stentorian chorus at sunrise each morning. These birds may be easily tamed, and to a certain extent are domesticated about the rural villages; but there seems little probability of their becoming a really widespread and useful fowl. See Plate of Grouse, etc.