Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Really Weird Birds Part 10

Here’s an unusual bird for you: the Cock-of-the-rock!  There are two species native to South American rainforests and mountainous areas, the Andean Cock-of-the-rock and the Guianan Cock-of-the-rock.
 A male Guianan Cock-of-the-rock.  They are found in the Guianan Shield in humid forests near rocky areas.
The males of these species have beautiful orange coloration and feather crests on their heads used to help them attract a mate.  The females are much duller in color in comparison to the males. 
A male Andean Cock-of-the-rock.  They are found in the tropical forests of the Andes.

These birds are polygamous, a trait that started a unique courtship ritual.  At the beginning of breeding season, males will gather at a lek, or a communal area where they perform exuberant mating dances and displays to compete for females.  Each male has its own territory within the lek where they dance.  They jump up and down, strut about, bob their heads, ruffle their tail feathers, spread their wings, and utter unique calls.  The females walk through the lek analyzing all the displays.  Often two males will pair up and challenge each other to a dual!  They won’t get physical but they will face each other and have a dance off!  When a female approaches, the flapping and squawking gets even more intense.  When she chooses, she taps the male from behind and mating quickly occurs.

The males have nothing to do with nesting or raising the chicks.  The females will build a nest made of mud and plant material and attach it with her saliva to the side of a cliff, in a rock crevice or in a cave, always close to a water source and in a shaded area.  They lay 1 to 2 eggs that hatch in about 28 days. The chicks are fed fruits, small snakes, lizards, and insects.    
 Female Andean Cock-of-the-rock.

Cock-of-the-rocks are mostly fruit eaters and they serve an important role in the rainforests by contributing to the spread of local plant diversity.  The seeds from the fruit they consume pass unharmed through their digestive system and allow trees to grow greater distances away from their parent trees.

Fortunately the populations of the Guianan and Andean Cock-of-the-rock are doing well in their range.  They are not considered to be a threatened species and are listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.     

 Submitted by Sara Oliver, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

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