Animal picture of the day: the brilliant cock-of-the-rock

/ Jeremy Hance

The Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus) is an unmistakable bird, whose males support such brilliant and bushy head plumage that their beaks are often hidden entirely, giving them a look wholly unique in the animal kingdom.

Founder of mongabay.com, Rhett A. Butler, took this photo of a cock of the rock in the cloud forests of Peru only yesterday. He says even the photo doesn't give the bird's true colors justice. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Founder of mongabay.com, Rhett A. Butler, took this photo of an Andean cock-of-the-rock in the cloud forests of Peru only yesterday. He says even photos do not do the bird’s colors justice. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

The Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus) is an unmistakable bird, whose males support such brilliant and bushy head plumage that their beaks are often hidden entirely, giving them a look wholly unique in the animal kingdom. Males perform complex mating dances to attract females in communal leks, making this bird easy to spot if one visits a lek at the right time, otherwise the birds are notoriously shy.

Female Andean cock-of-the-rocks are far less spectacular, sporting a rusty color. However, the females has the benefit of knowing the males’ coloring and dancing are all for them.

The birds live in cloud forests (usually between 500-2,400 meters) in Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. They are viewed as important seed dispersers, passing many seeds undamaged.

Fortunately, the Andean cock-of-the-rock is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List, though its total population has never been estimated.


For more photos from Peru.


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