Guianan Cockoftherock Rupicola rupicola

Physical characteristics: Male Guianan cocks-of-the-rock are bright orange birds with large orange crests on their heads. They have black and white wing bars and black on their tails. Females are a drab brown color.

Geographic range: Guianan cocks-of-the-rock are found in southern Guyana, Colombia, Venezuela and in northern Brazil.

Habitat: Guiana cocks-of-the-rock live in lowland forests below 4,900 feet (1,500 meters).

Rupicola Scientific Illustration
Male Guianan cocks-of-the-rock have a large orange crest on their heads. Females are a drab brown color. (Illustration by Emily Damstra. Reproduced by permission.)

Diet: Cocks-of-the-rock prefer fruit and berries, but will eat insects if other food is scarce.

Behavior and reproduction: Male cocks-of-the-rock clear spots on the forest floor to form large leks where they sing loudly and perform mating dances for females. Predators such as hawks, jaguars, ocelots, and boa constrictors are attracted to these leks. Successful males will mate with many females during the breeding season. Females raise their young alone, building cup-shaped nests of clay and plants along rock faces or in holes on cliffs. They lay two eggs that hatch in about a month.

Guianan cocks-of-the-rock and people: In the early twentieth century, hunters captured these birds and sold them as pets. Today they are attractive to birdwatchers and ecotourists who want to observe nature without disturbing it. In this way they may add to the local tourist economy. Native tribes hunt these birds for their feathers and as food. Fly fishermen use their feathers in making fishing flies.

Conservation status: Guianan cocks-of-the-rock are not threatened or at risk of extinction. ■


Hilty, Steven L. Birds of Venezuela. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003.

Kircher, John. A Neotropical Companion: An Introduction to the Animals, Plants, and Ecosystems of the New World Tropics, 2nd ed. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999.

Ridgley, Robert S., and Guy Tudor. The Birds of South America. Vol 2, The Suboscine Passerines. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1994.

Web sites:

"Cotingas, Bellbirds, Becards, Cock-of-the-rock." Cornell University. http:// (accessed on May 4, 2004).

"Ecology of the Cock-of-the-Rock." Ecology Online. http://www.ecology. info/cock-of-the-rock.htm (accessed on May 4, 2004).


Class: Aves Order: Passeriformes Family: Phytotomidae Number of species: 3 species



Adult plantcutters are generally between 7 and 8 inches (18 and 20 centimeters) long, and have short, thick, cone-shaped bills. Their bodies are stocky, although they weigh only 1.5 ounces (40 grams). The birds' wings and legs tend to be short, although plantcutters have long tails and strong, large feet. In the males and females of the Peruvian and red-breasted species, the head peaks in a short crest. The rufous-tailed plantcutter is similar looking, but lacks a crest and has more red in its tail.

Male plantcutters are more brightly colored than the females, and show off their cinnamon or rusty breasts and bellies and distinctive black eye stripes at mating time. Neither sex is particularly colorful, however, blending into their dry environment with ashy gray (male) and buff-brown (female) backs. Both sexes have white bars on their wings and tail ends and either yellow or crimson irises.

These birds are locally known in South America as cotarramas, cortaplantas, and raras ("rare ones"). Their name derives from the highly unusual rows of sharp, forward-leaning, tooth-like projections on the edges of their bills on both sides. Made of keratin (KARE-ah-tin), like the bill itself, these projections allow the birds to pulverize and eat the leafy foods on which they feed.


The Peruvian plantcutter lives only in the dry forest and scrublands of Peru's northwest coasts. The rufous-tailed and red-breasted plantcutters occupy a larger area, and may be phylum class subclass order monotypic order suborder family found in Argentina's southern temperate zone and Chile, and north to subtropical Bolivia and Paraguay.

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