Feeding ecology and diet

Cotingas have wide gaping mouths, adapted to eating berries and other fruits. The larger species and those which inhabit open country also like to take insects as well. Fruits eaten include those of palms (Euterpes, Livistonia) and Ce-cropias, as well as fruits of the plant families Lauraceae, Burs-eraceae, Loranthaceae, Melostomataceae, and Myrsinaceae (e.g., Rapanea ferruginea).

There appears to be increased dietary specialization in larger species versus smaller species, which are more generalized in their diets. Additionally, many of the smaller species tend to be "gorgers", settling in the lower parts of bushes to feed on masting fruits. Feeding is done while flying, perching, or hopping through branches. As a relatively passive group, cotingas display little intraspecific competition or aggression at fruiting trees, with several individuals (even males) foraging without incident in at least some species (Cotinga).

Smaller seeds of the fruits they consume are passed through and dispersed without being digested, whereas larger seeds are regurgitated on the spot. Seed dispersal helps regenerate the tropical forests where cotingas live, as seeds of their preferred food plants are distributed throughout the forests.

A male black-necked red cotinga (Phoenicircus nigricollis) on its display perch in the Amazon rainforest, Peru. (Photo by Michael Fogden. Bruce Coleman Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

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