Andean cock-of-the-rock

Its dramatic appearance and behavior make it a symbol and national bird of Peru

Bill Bouton

One of the most flamboyant and eye-catching birds is found in the cloud forests of the Andean mountains. With its brilliant plumage and unique mating displays, this species symbolizes the rich biodiversity endemic to South America. It is best known for its vivid orange or red plumage and a prominent fan-shaped crest that covers its head, making it one of the most visually striking birds in its habitat. Males are particularly vibrant, with a deep red or orange color covering most of their bodies, contrasted by black wings and tails. Females are less conspicuous, with more muted tones of brown and orange, which helps them remain less visible while nesting and caring for their young.

These birds are native to the Andean regions of South America, ranging from Venezuela to Bolivia. They thrive in humid and dense montane forests, typically ranging from 500 to 2,400 meters (1,640 to 7,874 feet) in elevation. The Andean Cock-of-the-Rock prefers areas with rocky outcrops and ravines, which are crucial for their nesting sites and also serve as natural amphitheaters where males can perform their courtship displays.

One of the most remarkable behaviors of the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock is its mating ritual. Males gather at communal display sites known as leks, where they compete to attract females through elaborate displays that include posing, hopping, flapping, and making loud calls. These leks are usually located in traditional spots that can be used year after year.

Females visit these leks to select a mate based on the males’ performance. After mating, the female alone is responsible for nest building, egg incubation, and chick rearing. She constructs a mud cup nest on a rocky cliff, where she lays two eggs and cares for them without any assistance from the male.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Bolivia
2018
Colombia
2018
Ecuador
2018
Peru
2018
Venezuela
2018

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Frugivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No