The highland guan grows to a length of 59 to 65 cm. The plumage of the male is black, the upper parts glossed with green or blue, the underparts rather duller. The iris of the eye is reddish-brown and there is reddish-brown or purplish bare skin around and behind the eye. The beak, the bare skin on the throat, the large wattle, the legs and feet are reddish-orange. The female, by contrast, is brown, heavily mottled and barred with reddish-brown and cinnamon, with a red beak and bare skin round the beak, and purplish bare skin round the eye.
They nest in natural cavities of large upper canopy trees. They lay 1 to 3 eggs and incubation lasts 25 to 28 days. The parents are highly attentive raising the chicks.
These birds forage for fruit, in the trees and on the leaf litter.
They are found in the highlands of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, southern Mexico, and Nicaragua.
Their habitat is humid broad-leaved mountain forests, mainly cloud forests and pine-oak forests, but they have also been observed in secondary forests and plantations.
Habitat alteration and hunting are the principal threats. IUCN Red List: Vulnerable.