The White-Headed Capuchin (Cebus Capucinus), also known as the White-Faced Capuchin or White-Throated Capuchin, is a New World Monkey in the Cebidae family of monkeys and is commonly found in Central America and northern South America. This medium sized monkey is one of the most recognizable in the world; often characterized as the companion of an organ grinder in many stories and movies. The White-Headed Capuchin has mostly black fur, with a pale yellowish fur on the neck, throat, chest, shoulders, and upper arms. Its head is capped with a ring of black fur; a distinctive feature that lends to its ease of recognition. It has a prehensile tail that is often held coiled, which is why the White-Headed Capuchin is commonly referred to by the nickname “ringtail”.
The White-Headed Capuchin is found in much of Central America and a small portion of northern South America. In Central America, the largest area of its habitat, it can be found in several countries including Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. When seen in certain areas of South America, the White-Headed Capuchin is typically found in the most northern parts of the western countries such as Colombia and Ecuador.
While the White-Headed Capuchin prefers primary or advanced secondary forest regions, it can be found in a variety of different forests and levels of vegetation ranging from secondary growth areas to mature forest regions. Not restricted to one type of forest region, the White-Headed Capuchin can dwell in evergreen and deciduous forests, dry and moist forests, and mangrove and montane forests without any problems adapting to their surroundings. The highest concentration of White-Headed Capuchin monkeys are usually found where the water sources are most abundant during the dry seasons, which are usually evergreen forests.
The diet of the White-Headed Capuchin is comprised of both plants and animals; which makes it an omnivore. Typically preferring to feast on fruit and small insects like many of the New World Monkey species, the White-Headed Capuchin forages at all levels of the forest from the canopy to ground level. The White-Headed Capuchin is very industrious when finding food, using several methods including stripping bark off of trees, searching through leaf litter, breaking dead tree branches, rolling over rocks, and even using stones as anvils to crack hard fruits.
While fruit is usually the largest portion of the White-Headed Capuchin’s diet, typically around 60%; their diet will vary greatly between the rainy and dry seasons and the region in which they live. They will eat fruit and other plants almost exclusively during the wet portions of the year, while supplementing their diet with insects such as beetle larvae, butterfly and moth caterpillars, ants, wasps, and ant and wasp larvae during drier climates. Occasionally, the White-Headed Capuchin will go after larger types of prey such as birds, bird eggs, frogs, lizards, crabs, mollusks, and small mammals when more acceptable sources of nutrition are either unavailable or in short supply.
Fun White-Headed Capuchin Facts
- White-Headed Capuchin troops are not thought to be highly territorial, as they spend a great deal of their time on the move.
- The White-Headed Capuchin is thought to be one of the most intelligent monkeys in the world.
- On average, a White-Headed Capuchin will travel nearly 5 miles each day.
- The White-Headed Capuchin is used as a medical companion for people who are paraplegic in certain areas of the world.
- The White-Headed Capuchin tends to live between 15 and 20 years in the wild, in captivity however, the white faced capuchin has been recorded to live until it is more than 50 years old!