Rupicola – Cock-of-the-rock

Surprisingly difficult to spot when they are not at leks due to their preference for staying within dense foliage

The genus Rupicola, better known for its colorful members, the Guianan and Andean Cock-of-the-rocks, represents some of the most spectacular birds found in the tropical rainforests of South America. These birds are renowned not just for their striking appearance but also for their unique mating displays.

Rupicola species are medium-sized birds known for their brilliant plumage and distinctive physical features. The most eye-catching trait is the males’ vibrant colors and large disk-like crest covering their forehead and face, making them one of the most visually striking birds. The Guianan Cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola rupicola), found in the northern part of South America, sports a bright orange plumage, while the Andean Cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus) displays a rich red or orange color, depending on its specific subspecies.

The Guianan Cock-of-the-rock inhabits the tropical rainforests of Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, southern Venezuela, and parts of northern Brazil. In contrast, the Andean Cock-of-the-rock is found along the Andes mountains, ranging from Venezuela to Bolivia. These birds prefer humid, dense forests with rocky outcrops and ravines, which provide essential cover and nesting sites.

Rupicola birds are primarily frugivorous, with their diet consisting mostly of fruits, which they forage in the dense canopies of the rainforest. They play a crucial role in their ecosystem as seed dispersers, helping maintain forest regeneration and biodiversity. Aside from their diet, these birds are perhaps best known for their elaborate courtship rituals. Males gather at communal display sites, known as leks, where they perform vocal and visual displays to attract females. These displays involve a lot of hopping, fluttering, and vocalizing, which can be quite a spectacle.