Cotingidae – Cotingas

Renowned for their vibrant and colorful plumage

Cotingas are birds that are exclusive to the tropical forests of Central and South America. This family is celebrated for its incredible diversity, with species ranging from the small and unassuming to the large and flamboyant, each with unique ecological roles and behaviors.

Cotingas exhibit a dazzling array of colorations, from the deep blues and vibrant reds of the males to the more camouflaged greens and browns of the females. This sexual dimorphism is often pronounced, with males displaying vivid colors and elaborate feathers to attract mates. The diversity in their calls is equally impressive, from the haunting whistles of the Screaming Piha to the metallic sounds of the Bellbirds.

These birds inhabit a variety of forested ecosystems, including the dense understory of humid tropical rainforests, open woodlands, coastal mangroves, and the edges of forests where they can be more easily observed. They are primarily frugivorous, feeding on a wide range of fruits, which makes them vital for the dispersal of seeds and the propagation of forest plants. Some species, such as the plantcutters, have evolved to consume leaves and flowers, a rare diet among birds. Larger cotingas occasionally supplement their fruit diet with invertebrates, thus contributing to the control of insect populations.

Breeding behaviors within the Cotingidae family vary and are not well-documented for all species, largely due to their often reclusive nature. While many cotingas are known to be polygamous, with males displaying at leks to attract multiple females, some are monogamous, with both parents sharing responsibilities for raising their offspring. There are even instances of cooperative breeding, where groups of mixed sex help in rearing the young.

Cotingas are renowned for their elaborate courtship displays, which involve not only visual displays but also an array of complex vocalizations and behaviors. Such displays often take place at traditional lekking sites, where males gather to compete for the attention of females.