Cotingas are characterized by compact bodies, large heads and wide mouths, often with a hook-tipped bill. The tarsi (feet) are surrounded only by band-like plates in front, but covered at the rear with very small platelets which are not all contiguous. Although the legs are short relative to the size of
the bird, the feet are of sufficient to perch comfortably; this is perhaps enhanced by long, sharp claw in some species (e.g., Rupicola, Cephalopterus).
Cotingas show more variation in size than any other group of passerines, ranging from the size of a canary to a crow. The length is 3-20 in (8-50 cm). There is a significant amount of sexual dimorphism, with mass being greater in females of the smaller species (e.g., Iodopleura, Porphyrolaema, Cotinga, Li-paugus, and Phoenicircus), but the reverse situation (i.e., greater in males) in the larger species (e.g., Gymnodoerus, Cephalopterus). Dimorphism also extends to plumage, with males being the more colorful sex.
Many species are quite beautiful; they have striking colors, decorative plumes, crests, inflatable throat sacs, strands of skin or bare leppets on the forehead or at the angle of the beak. These ornaments are more strongly accentuated in males. Many of the larger cotingas are distinguished not only by the gloss and brightness of their plumage and their quite unusual appendages, but also by their tuneful, far-reaching calls. The vocal muscles are strong.
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