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White-faced capuchin monkeys

Scientific name:  Cebus capucinus


Northern Honduras, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia.  There are reports of them in Belize, but this is not certain.

Capuchin monkeys utilize a wide range of habitats including seasonal, rain, mangrove, riparian, and montane tropical forests.  They do best in primary (mature) and secondary (regenerating) growth forests.  Capuchins are smart monkeys who are flexible and adaptive:  they tend to adjust to new habitats and disturbances to their environments. 


Adult male


Older juvenile

Carmen and Tita.JPG

Young adult female


Young juvenile


Older adult female




Female capuchin monkeys become sexually mature at 4-5 years  and males mature at 5-7 years.  Females usually have a baby 1-3 years apart and most commonly about every 2 years.  In the wild, capuchins live about 15-25 years.  In captivity they can live to be 45-50 years. 



More than half of their diet is focused on insects and ripe fruit. However, they also consume flowers, nectar, some leaves, nuts, and a wide variety of animal prey including small reptiles and amphibians, shell fish including clams, mussels, crabs and oysters; snails, birds (both fledglings and adults), and small mammals including mice, rats, squirrels, bats, small opossums, and coati pups.

Social Groups

Capuchin troops typically range in size of 10-35.  The size of the troop is shaped by food availability:  where there is more food, there are more monkeys. In the lowlands of Curú, where food is abundant and water can be found in the river, irrigation ditches, and springs the troops are bigger than those living in the hills where there are no crops and water is harder to find.

Most troops contain multiple males, though small troops may have only one male.  There are always multiple females and juveniles in the groups.


They live in matrilineal (female bonded) societies, in which females stay in their groups for life.  This means their society is composed of female family members and their children.  


Males leave during young adulthood to reside in other troops where they live for long periods of time.  They father many children, so capuchin families contain many siblings and half-siblings and also cousins.


Capuchin monkeys are active, briefly resting between periods of time foraging and socializing.  They are also social when fur rubbing (applying plants over their bodies) and engaging in odd behaviors:  finger sucking and eyeball poking.


Capuchins are known for their manipulative or "destructive" foraging behavior.  When searching for food, they dig out accumulated debris, open leaves, peel off bark, and break open sticks and other vegetation to get to food hidden within.



Capuchin monkeys are intelligent monkeys.  They are very good at problem solving and they are  known to make and use tools to access food items they would otherwise not be able to consume.  They often use the fur on their arms and tails like sponges to soak up water, which they lick off their fur.  They pound clams and hard shelled snails on tree branches to break them open.


Humans, snakes (boas), wild cats (puma, ocelot, jaguar, jaguarundi), tayras, crocodiles, raptors (hawks, falcons, eagles).

Read More:

The Complete Capuchin: The Biology of the Genus Cebus

Manipulative Monkeys: The Capuchins of Lomas Barbudal


Baker, Mary E.   personal observations 1991-2018

1992  Capuchin Monkeys and The Ancient Maya. Ancient Mesoamerica, 3:219-228.

1998. Fur Rubbing as Evidence for Medicinal Plant Use by Capuchin Monkeys (Cebus capucinus) Ecological, Social, and Cognitive Aspects of The Behavior. Thesis (Ph. D.) University of California, Riverside.

Fedigan, Linda M. 1987. Vertebrate Predation in Cebus capucinus  Meat Eating in A Neotropical Monkey. International Journal

of Primatology 8: 430–430.

Fragaszy DM, Visalberghi E, Linda M Fedigan (eds.) 2004. The Complete Capuchin: The Biology of The Genus Cebus. Cambridge

University Press, Cambridge.

Terborgh John. 1983  Five New World Primates. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

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