|Range||Northeastern parts of Brazil such as Pernambuco and Alagoas.|
Extinct in the Wild
The Alagoas Curassow (Mitu mitu), is a species of glossy-black curassow. It was formerly found in forests in north eastern parts of north eastern parts of Brazil such as Pernambuco and Alagoas (hence its name) (Harry 2006), but it is now extinct in the wild; there are about 130 members in captivity.
German naturalist J. Marcgrave first identified the Alagoas curassow in 1648 along the north-eastern coast of Brazil. However, in later years, opinion about the origin and legitimacy of the bird began to arise due to the lack of evidence. It was only after 1951, in the coastal forests of Alagoas, North-East Brazil, where an adult female curassow was rediscovered. It was then that the Mitu mitu began to be regarded as a specific taxon (Silveira).
In the forests of São Miguel dos Campos the Mitu mitu was detected, again in 1951. At that time fewer than 60 birds were left in the wild (Silveira). Several authors in the 1970s brought to light the growing destruction of its habitat and the rarity of the species. Even with all of this concern, the last large forest remnants where the Mitu mitu lived were demolished to make space for sugarcane plantations (Silveira).
The Alagoas curassow measures a length of approximately 83–89 centimetres (33–35 in). Feathers covering its body are black and glossy, with a blue-purple hue to it (BirdLife International 2013). Mitu mitu also has a large, bright red beak with a white tip, the beak flattened at its sides. The same red coloration on found on its legs and feet. The tips of its tails are light brown in color, with chestnut colored feathers under its tail. It has a unique grey colored, crescent-shaped path of bare skin covering its ears, not found in other curassows (Harry 2006). The distinct coloration separates M.mitu as its own species apart from other curassow. Differences between the males and females of the species are not too distinct: females tend to be lighter in color and slightly smaller in size (Sick 1980). The birds can live to more than twenty four years old in captivity (The Website of Everything 2010). Videos recorded in captivity show that the cracid sporadically makes a high-pitched chirping sound.
Since 1977, the Mitu mitu population has been in captivity. It had numbers of 44 birds in 2000. In 2008, there were 130 birds in two aviaries. About 35% of the birds were hybrids with M.tuberosum (BirdLife International 2012).
Habitat and Ecology
The Mitu mitu reside in subtropical/tropical moist lowland primary forest, where it was known to consume fruit of Phyllanthus, Eugenia and "mangabeira." It was most regionally extinct and extirpated in Alagoas and Pernambuco, North East Brazil (BirdLife International 2012).
Due to their absence in the wild and lack of study previously conducted on these cracids before their extinction in the wild, not much is known about their breeding habits outside of captivity. Alagoas curassow females begin reproducing at about 2 years old. In captivity, they produce about 2-3 eggs each year (Harry 2006). There has been a greater genetic variability amongst the Alagoas curassow after 1990, when hybrid breeding programs were introduced; the Alagoas curassow were bred with its closest relatives, the razor-billed curassow (BirdLife International 2013).
The Alagoas curassow was first mentioned by German naturalist Georg Marcgraf in his work Historia Naturalis Brasiliae which was published in 1648. Because of lack of information and specimens, it was considered the same species as the far more common razor-billed curassow, until after its rediscovery in 1951 in the Alagoas lowland forests, Brazil. Following the review of Pereira & Baker (2004), they are today believed to be a fairly basal lineage of its genus and closer to the crestless curassow, the other Mitu species with brown eumelanin in the tail tip. Its lineage is distinct since the Miocene-Pliocene boundary (little more than 5 million years ago), when it became isolated in the refugium in the Atlantic Forest (Pereira & Baker 2004).
Being extinct in the wild, the species as a whole is being kept alive via two separate captive populations. Within these captive populations exist roughly 130 individual birds. A reintroduction plan is being organized, although difficulties are present. Even if breeding a solid numbered population were to happen, the species would need a large, natural geographical area to be reintroduced to. Human expansion has caused nearly all of the Mitu Mitu's natural habitat to be destroyed. A decently sized forest in north-eastern Brazil has been proposed to be the site of reintroduction in the future. Precautions would have to be taken in order to prevent illegal hunting of the species to occur after their reintroduction process has gone underway.
The Alagoas curassow became extinct in the wild due to deforestation and hunting. The last wild Alagoas curassow was seen and killed in 1984, or possibly 1987 or 1988. The captive population has been extensively hybridized with the razor-billed curassow, and there are several dozen purebred birds left. These are being maintained and bred in two privately owned professional aviaries in Brazil mainly due to lack of official interest owing to the long-standing doubt about the taxon's validity. They can reach an age of more than 24 years in captivity.