Lee Richardson Zoo

Guira Cuckoo

Order: Cuculiformes - cuckoos and turacos
Family: Cuculidae - cuckoos

ScientificName: Guira Guira


Description:  Adults are 15 in. in length and 5 oz. in weight.  The back and wings are brown with white streaks.  Brown stripes extend down through the throat and breast.  The head has a short orange-rufous crest, bare yellow facial skin, a yellow to orange iris, and an orange or yellow bill.  Tail is black with a broad white area at base and tip.  Feet are bluish grey.
Juveniles have a small white spot on the tips of their flight feathers.  Their bill is black and white, and their iris is light grey.


Home Range:  Found in southern and eastern South America.


Habitat Type:  Found in various habitats including second-growth scrubland, woodlands, pampas, pastures, and coastal dunes. Also found in open areas like savannahs, gardens, wood edges, and fields.  Found from sea level to above 4000 feet.


Reproduction:  In Brazil, some guira cuckoos will nest in the dry season (May-Aug) but most nest during the rainy season (Aug-Nov).  As the breeding season approaches, flocks will decrease in size as individuals pair up.  Guira cuckoos have been known to take over nests of other birds.  They will even share a nest and incubate with their close relatives the greater ani and smooth-billed ani.  Nests look like a large open platform of sticks high up in thorny trees or bushes.  Individuals often renovate nests from previous seasons.  Some nests have only one breeding pair, but often times, several females group together to incubate.  Females lay clutches of 4-5 eggs.  Incubation lasts 10-15 days. Eggs are grey to turquoise with whitish splotches and streaks. Young leave the nest after 5 or 6 days to explore.  Young are fully fledged at 15 days. 


Diet in Wild:  Insects, grasshoppers, cicadas, flying termites, frogs, eggs, and nestlings of small birds.  Berries and other fruits are also eaten.


Diet in Zoo:  3 oz. B.O.P. meat daily at LR zoo.  Will take mice and rats in captivity as well.


General Info:  Also called the white ani, this species is gregarious and very social.  After roosting together in a tree at night, groups will hunt for food through bushes or on the ground in noisy flocks of up to 20.  Their call is a shrill “giri-giri”.  They also may make a whistle that sounds like "pio…pio…pio…pr…prr…prrr”. Young are able scramble up and down branches only a few days after hatching.  While perfecting their climbing abilities, they will slip up and fall occasionally.  After tumbling down to the ground, they will remain concealed until it is safe to climb back into the nest. 

Guira cuckoos are known to bask in the sun for long periods of time.  They prefer to face their back towards the sun when basking.  It has been suggested that their body temperature can easily be affected by external temperatures.  It is thought that it may take longer for a guira cuckoo to return to normal body temperature after a period of cold weather.  This is why they will be seen basking for several hours or huddled together during cold weather.

Guira cuckoos are successfully bred in captivity although chicks may require hand-feeding.  Pairs in captivity can be very playful with each other.  Within an aviary, they will become very accustomed to people.  They require a secure aviary with plenty of access to sunshine.  In winter, they should be confined to a well-heated building.   Populations have extended their range over the past 100 years.  Flocks are able to occupy deforested areas, but will move off if an area becomes forested again.  Guira cuckoos were successfully bred in England in 1911.  Although not related, they look very similar to a bird call the Hoatzin.


Conservation Status: Not globally threatened.  Common.



Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 4.  Josep del Hoyo, et. al.  Lynx Edicions. Barcelona, Spain.  603 pp.

Birds of Southern South America and Antarctica.  Martin R. De La Pena and Maurice Rumboll.  Princeton University Press.  Princeton, New Jersey.  45 pp.

Encyclopaedia of Aviculture.  Vol. 2.  A. Rutgers and K.A. Norris. Blandford Press Ltd, 1979.  240pp.