Monkeys » White-throated Capuchin or White-faced Monkey

White throated Capuchin-White-faced MonkeyScientific NameCebus capucinus

Interesting Facts

The name “Capuchin” originates from the similarity between the head coloration of these monkeys and  the hoods worn by the Spanish order of Capuchin Monks..
They have a long prehensile tail that is the same length of its body.

The population of White-faced Capuchin’s has declined 43% in the past 12 years from a population count of 95,000 in 1995 to a population count of 54,000 in 2007.

They are among the most intelligent primates demonstrated by their ability to use tools in the search for food (Cambridge University).  The only other primates to use tools are chimpanzees and orangutans.


These monkeys prefer the canopy of primary rainforest but they will inhabit secondary rain forest, dry forest and mangroves from sea level to 6,890 feet (2,100 meters).  Their geographical distribution extends from Honduras south to Ecuador.


Their diet consists of 65% fruits, 15% leaves and 20% other nutritional sources including berries, nuts, seeds, shoots, buds, flowers, gum and bark from trees, insects, spiders, eggs, crabs, oysters and a host of  small mammals and birds.  They are definitely carnivorous and have been observed eating birds, infant squirrels, baby coatimundis and lizards.


Life History
These monkeys are promiscuous maters and use facial expressions such as protruding lips and vocalizations to attract mates and find the group. The offspring hang onto the mother’s front and back for the first few months after birth and they are fully weaned by 12 months.  They reach sexual maturity in 3 years and their gestation period is 157-167 days.  They will give birth about once every 19 months with most births occurring between December and April.  The infants are born a gray color but their distinctive white markings normally appear within three months. You can differentiate between male and female by the grayish black color of the female’s forehead.  Their lifespan averages almost 50 years.


Social Structure
The average social structure of the group consists of multiple males and females; however, there are normally more females than males.  The hierarchy of the group is diagonal and the power depends on alliances with other members of the group. Females are at a disadvantage because they are smaller than males, so they make alliances with males and other females as opposed to males that do not make alliances with members of the same sex. Males defend their territory and their females against predators and males from other groups. Periodically some males will emigrate from the group and remain solitary for awhile before joining another group.  The average group size is 10-20.


Home Range
The territory of a group averages from 80 acres (32 hectares) to 212 acres (85 hectares) depending on the volume of food the area produces.  Their daily roaming range is from 3,950 feet (1200 meters) to 6,560 feet (2000 meters).


These monkeys are diurnal (active during the day)  and arboreal (living in trees), and their feeding habits actually promote the health of the forest by pollinating plants, dispersing seeds in their excrement and pruning the fruit from trees which enhances the fruit production of the tree.  Males forage more on the lower branches and near the ground for larger vertebrates, and the females forage in the trees for smaller vertebrates.  You will often see them grooming each other looking for tics and fleas.  This behavior known as “Allogrooming” increases during the birth season/dry season when there are more tics.  Classic threatening postures are jumping up and down and shaking and throwing sticks.  If you hear a “PURR” sound this is a friendly greeting call.  Their language and body language is complex, they use facial expressions such as eyebrow movements and vocalizations to attract females, to warn each other, or to identify group members. It is typical for them to jump up and down, bang objects against the ground and throw sticks to show their power.

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