Capuchin Monkeys

The Capuchin Monkeys are the group of New World monkeys classified as genus Cebus.

The range of the Capuchin Monkeys includes Central America (Honduras) and middle South America (middle Brazil, eastern Peru, Paraguay). Capuchin Monkeys generally resemble the friars of their namesake.


Their body, arms, legs and tail are all darkly (black or brown) coloured, while the face, throat and chest are white coloured and their head has a black cap. Capuchin Monkeys reach a length of 30 to 56 centimetres (12 – 22 inches), with tails that are just as long as their body. Capuchin Monkeys weigh up to 1.3 kilograms (2 – 3 pounds), with brains of mass 35 – 40 grams. They are considered the most intelligent New World monkeys.

Like most New World monkeys, Capuchin Monkeys are diurnal and arboreal. With the exception of a midday nap, they spend their entire day searching for food. At night they sleep in the trees, wedged between branches. Capuchin Monkeys are undemanding regarding their habitat and can therefore be found in many differing areas. Among the natural enemies of the capuchins are large falcons, cats and snakes.

The diet of the Capuchin Monkey is more varied than other monkeys in the family Cebidae. Capuchin Monkeys are omnivores, eating not only fruits, nuts, seeds and buds, but also insects, spiders, bird eggs and small vertebrates. Capuchin Monkeys living near water will also eat crabs and shellfish by cracking their shells with stones.

Easily recognized as the ‘organ grinder’ monkeys, Capuchin Monkeys are sometimes kept as exotic pets. They are also sometimes used as service animals. Sometimes they plunder fields and crops and are seen as troublesome by nearby human populations. In some regions they have become rare due to the destruction of their habitat.

Capuchin Monkeys live together in groups of 6 to 40 members. These groups consist of related females and their offspring, as well as several males. Usually groups are dominated by a single male, who has primary rights to mate with the females of the group. Mutual grooming as well as vocalization serves as communication and stabilization of the group dynamics. Capuchin Monkeys are territorial animals, distinctly marking a central area of their territory with urine and defending it against intruders.

Females bear young every 2 years following a 160 to 180 day gestation. The young cling to their mothers chest until they are larger, when they move to her back. Adult male capuchins rarely take part in caring for the young. Within 4 years for females and 8 years for males, juveniles become fully mature. In captivity, individuals have reached an age of 45 years, although life expectancy in nature is only 15 to 25 years.

During the mosquito season, Capuchin Monkeys crush up millipedes and rub the remains on their backs. This acts as a natural insect repellent.

Genus: Cebus – Golden-bellied Capuchin Monkey

The Golden-bellied Capuchin Monkey (Cebus xanthosternos), is one of several species of New World monkeys. Golden-bellied Capuchin Monkeys have a distinctive yellow to golden red chest, belly and upper arms. Their face is a light brown and their cap for which the capuchins were first named is a dark brown/black or light brown. A band of short hair around the upper part of the face with speckled colouring contrasts with the darker surrounding areas. Their limbs and tail are also darkly coloured.

Golden-bellied Capuchin Monkeys are restricted to the Atlantic forest of southern Bahia, Brazil, due to high degrees of interference from man. Only 300 individuals survive. Conservation status – Critically Endangered.

Genus: Cebus – Tufted Capuchin Monkey

The Tufted Capuchin Monkey (Cebus apella), also known as Brown Capuchin or Black-capped Capuchin is a New World primate from South America. It is one of the more widespread species of primates in the neotropics. Tufted Capuchins are omnivorous animals, mostly feeding on fruits and invertebrates, although they sometimes feed on small vertebrates (lizards and bird chicks) and other plant parts.

Like other capuchins, these are social animals, forming groups of 8 to 15 individuals, and are led by an alpha or dominant male. The Tufted Capuchin is more powerfully built than the other capuchins, with rougher fur and a short, thick tail. Conservation status – Least Concern.

Genus: Cebus – White-fronted Capuchin Monkey

The White-fronted Capuchin Monkey (Cebus albifrons), is a New World primate, endemic to six different countries in South America: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru. The species is also divided into several different subspecies. Just like any other capuchin monkey, it is also an omnivorous animal, feeding primarily on fruits, although it can also eat invertebrates and other plant parts. It is a polygamous animal and lives on fairly large groups (15 up to 35 individuals), giving birth to a single young at 2 year intervals. Conservation status – Least Concern.

Genus: Cebus – White-headed Capuchin Monkey

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The White-headed Capuchin Monkey (Cebus capucinus), also known as the White-faced Capuchin or White-throated Capuchin, is a small New World monkey of the family Cebidae. Native to the forests of South and Central America, White-throated Capuchins are important to rainforest ecology by their role in dispersing seeds and pollen. Like other monkeys in the genus Cebus, White-headed Capuchins are named after the order of Capuchin friars: the cowls worn by these friars closely resemble the monkeys head colouration.

White-headed Capuchins have mostly black fur, with white to yellowish fur around the naked, pinkish face and on the shoulders; and, of course, white throats. A V-shaped area of black fur on the crown of the head is distinctive. The tip of the tail is often held coiled, giving White-headed Capuchins the nickname ‘ringtail’. Adults may reach a length of 435 millimetres and a weight of 3.9 kilograms. Their tail is prehensile. Conservation status – Least Concern.

Other Capuchin Monkeys

The Black Capuchin Monkey (Cebus nigritus), is a capuchin monkey from South America. It is found in Brazil and Argentina. The Robust Tufted Capuchin (Cebus nigritus robustus), is a subspecies of the Black Capuchin endemic to Brazil. Conservation status – Vulnerable.

The Black-striped Capuchin Monkey (Cebus libidinosus), is a New World capuchin monkey from South America. It is found in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.

The Blond Capuchin Monkey (Cebus queirozi) is a claimed new capuchin monkey species that was discovered in early 2006 by Zoology researchers from the Federal University in Pernambuco, near Recife, northeastern Brazil. Pontes said that ‘as soon as I saw the monkey with its golden-yellow hair and the white tiara on its head, I knew it was a new species’.

The Kaapori Capuchin Monkey (Cebus kaapori) is a capuchin monkey endemic to Brazil. This species is found in the Brazilian states of Para and Maranhao. Formerly considered a subspecies of the Weeper Capuchin (Cebus olivaceus), it was recently elevated to species status. Conservation status – Vulnerable.

The Large-headed Capuchin Monkey (Cebus apella macrocephalus), is a subspecies of the Tufted Capuchin from South America. It is found in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Conservation status – Least Concern.

The Weeper Capuchin Monkey (Cebus olivaceus), is a New World capuchin monkey from South America. It is found in Brazil, Guyana, French Guiana, Suriname and Venezuela. Conservation status – Least Concern.