Bird’s Eye View: The Horned Guan

Horned guan in the wild

The Horned Guan in the wild. (Photo: Josh More)

The horned guan is a unique, large bird that resembles a turkey. It is named for the distinctive red horn on the top of its head. The horned guan, also identified by its shiny black plumage and red feet, lives in mountain forests in southern Mexico and in Guatemala. The bird is an endangered species, and has been threatened by the loss and fragmentation of its forest habitat, as well as by excessive hunting.

One part of Guatemala where the horned guan can be found is the Communal Forest of Los Altos de San Miguel, Totonicapán—the site of EcoLogic’s Forest of the Water Spirit project. The Communal Forest is part of the Atitlán Important Bird Area, a mountainous part of southern Guatemala that is home to several threatened and endangered bird species, including the endangered horned guan and the near threatened resplendent quetzal—Guatemala’s national bird.

At our Forest of the Water Spirit project, EcoLogic is working with our local partner, the 48 Cantons—the traditional indigenous governing body of Totonicapán—to address major threats to the habitat of the horned guan. Fortunately, thanks in large part to the role of the 48 Cantons in preserving traditional Maya K’iche’ customs that that regulate, protect, and preserve the tradition of the collective forest, Totonicapán has the lowest deforestation rate in Guatemala.

Though the 48 Cantons have protected the Communal Forest and the resources and fauna it hosts for 800 years, as pressure on the forest mounts, there remains a great need for collaboration and support. Serious threats to the forest, the horned guan, and the indigenous communities that call Totonicapán home include climate change-induced threats, like water shortages and more frequent forest fires, and illegal logging for firewood and agricultural land.

EcoLogic’s long-term goals for the Forest of the Water Spirit project are to restore degraded land through an ambitious reforestation program, and to reduce rates of deforestation by strengthening the 48 Cantons’ capacity to sustainably manage the forest and discourage illegal logging.

Through our partnership with the 48 Cantons, we hope that the Communal Forest of Totonicapán will be conserved and restored for the benefit of both local people and endangered species who also make the forest their home, like the horned guan. In the future, we hope it won’t be such a rare sight to see one of these majestic birds in the wild. But for now, if you happen to see a horned guan on your travels through Guatemala, consider yourself lucky—and be sure to take a picture!

The horned guan is listed in EcoLogic’s biodiversity catalog. Click here to explore the catalog yourself, and learn more about the other beautiful birds and animals that live in the places where we work!

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