Travel Ecuador : Bird watching : Birds :

Andean Cock of the Rock

After a long, arduous march up the steep trail into the cloud forest, your guide finally stops and motions you to quietly sit down. Despite the cool temperature, the humidity and exertion makes you sweat as you settle in to wait for the rapidly approaching Andean dawn. As soon the early morning light creeps into the cloud forest, the birds you came to see begin to arrive. They announce their arrival with loud, grating calls as they warm up for their amazing courtship displays. As soon as the day is light enough to make their reddish orange plumage shine like beacons in the cloud forest mist, the dozen Andean Cocks of the Rock posture and fluff their feathers while filling the forest with their harsh calls. This daily occurrence for the birds is one of the highlights of your trip to Ecuador.

Identification
The male Andean Cock of the Rock is one of the most spectacular birds in South America. A brilliant red bird with white and black patches in the wings and a rounded crest reminiscent of a Trojan soldier’s helmet, there is nothing remotely similar to this species in its Andean range. The female of the Andean Cock of the Rock, a fairly large bird around the size of a chicken or pigeon, is shaped somewhat similar to the male but has dull, dark brown plumage.

Behavior in Ecuador
In Ecuador, the Andean Cock of the Rock forages for fruit and small creatures in the cloud forest. They are often seen in small groups and are common in areas of cloud forests where not persecuted. The males faithfully gather together at courtship sites known as leks where they fluff their feathers and face off, squawking, jumping up and down, and spreading their wings. Their goal is to convince females to mate with them, although the males don’t partake in any of the nest building or rearing of the young birds.

Habitat and distribution in Ecuador
The Andean Cock of the Rock occurs in mossy cloud forest on both slopes from the foothill zone to around 2,500 meters. They generally frequent the lower levels of the forest and in addition to occurring in primary forest, sometimes occur in second growth.