Rob Williams

Andean Cock-of-the-rock

Rupicola peruvianus

The Andean Cock-of-the-rock is perhaps the most popularly recognized bird of the cloud forests of the Andes Mountains and it is the national bird of Peru.

NPA: Manu National Park (Important Bird Area).

Endemic: No.

Characteristics

The cock-of-the-rock is unmistakable due to its reddish-orange color, the round crest on its head, its black wings and tail and light grey lower back. Its legs and beak are yellow and its iris white. The female is a dull brown-orange.

Length: 31-33 cm / 12-13 in.

Threat: Least Concern.

Best Time for observation: All year round.

Habitat: It is often found in the montane forest, but there is a famous lek 5 minutes from the Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge, where it can be observed from a comfortable hideout.

Located in the Andes of South America (from Venezuela to Bolivia).

Andean Cock-of-the-rock

Often considered the national bird of Peru, the Andean Cock-of-the-rock is one of the most spectacular and well-known forest birds in the world. Infamous from wildlife documentaries it is a must-see species for most visiting birders and naturalists. A member of the Continga family, a diverse group of some of the most brightly coloured and spectacular of all tropical birds, they inhabit the humid montane forests of the Andes, whey feed in the under and mid-storeys, mainly on fruits, though insects and small vertebrates are also consumed.

The spectacular intense orange males with their black and grey wings gather at traditional sites known as leks. Here, they squeal and dance, throwing their heads down and raising their wings, in order to attract the drabber females that visit the lek repeatedly before selecting a male, usually the most centrally located, as a mate. Females nest on small rock faces, often in stream gorges or at the entrances to caves.

Peru is fortunate to be home to 3 different subspecies, the bright orange aequatorialis in the north, the paler peruvianus in central Peru, and the spectacular saturatus, with its intense orange-red plumage and delicate sky blue eyes contrasting with a bright orange orbital ring, in the south.

The Andean Cock-of-the-rock can be seen the length of the Andes, but particularly good spots to see it include known lek sites on the Cordillera Escalera near Tarapoto and on the famous Manu road near Cusco, or near the village of Machu Picchu. The experience of watching a lek of these fantastic birds within an Andean cloud forest is unique and will certainly be a memorable highlight of any trip to Peru.

Text by Rob Williams.