Typical guan
Spix's Guan, Penelope jacquacu
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Superorder: Galloanserae
Order: Galliformes
Family: Cracidae
Subfamily: Penelopinae
Genus: Penelope
Merrem, 1786

Penelope is a bird genus in the Cracidae family consisting of a number of large turkey-like arboreal species, the typical guans. The range of these species is in forests from southern Mexico to tropical South America. These largish birds have predominately brown plumage and have relatively small heads in comparison with body size; they also bear a characteristic dewlap. Body lengths are typically 65 to 95 centimeters.

Most of the genus members have a typically raucous honking call. A number of the genus members are endangered species and at least one is critically endangered, usually due to tropical deforestation and hunting. In the case of several species the estimated populations are as low as a few 1000 mature birds, spread over a considerable area. Because of the scarcity of many of the genus members and also due to the habitat being often in deep or high altitude forests, little is known about some of the species habits and reproduction; in fact, some species are found at altitudes up to 3350 meters. Nests are typically built of twigs in trees.

This genus seems to have originated as part of the southward expansion of guans through the Andes and across tropical South America. Its closest relatives are probably the piping-guans, Aburria. These genera's ancestors apparently diverged some time during the Burdigalian, 20-15 mya, but this is presently not corroborated by fossil evidence (Pereira et al. 2002).



  • Pereira, Sérgio Luiz; Baker, Allan J.& Wajntal, Anita (2002): Combined nuclear and mitochondrial DNA sequences resolve generic relationships within the Cracidae (Galliformes, Aves). Systematic Biology 51(6): 946-958. doi:10.1080/10635150290102519 PMID 12554460 PDF fulltext

Eurasian Spoonbill This article is part of Project Bird Genera, a All Birds project that aims to write comprehensive articles on each genus, including made-up genera.
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