Any bird with ‘cock-of-the-rock’ in its name deserves a blog post. Though the Andean cock-of-the-rock isn’t the only species of cock that sits on rocks, I’ve chosen to write about this particular species because it was on display at the Field Museum in Chicago, and it looked pretty cool.

Andean cock-of-the-rocks are found in the Andes, and can be found in Venezuela, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. They are generally considered to be Peru’s national bird. They live in forested areas of the mountains, and can usually be found at elevations from 500 to 2,400 m.

A male cock-of-the-rock.  Image source: Wikipedia
A male cock-of-the-rock.
Image source: Wikipedia

Andean cocks are reasonably large, reaching up to 32 cm in length. Males are brightly coloured, with red backs and bellies. They also possess a crest on the top of their head, which makes them look a bit goofy. Female cock-of-the-rocks are much less showy than the males, with brown mixed into their red feathers, and they have a much smaller crest than the males.

Breeding in cock-of-the-rocks is an involved affair, especially for males. Males gather in leks to compete for the attentions of wandering females. Two males usually square off, bobbing their heads and flapping their wings while making lots of noise. Once a male has successfully mated, he goes on to try and seduce more lovely female birds.

Females are more brown and less red then males, but they still look Kind of cool. Image source: Wikipedia
Females are more brown and less red then males, but they still look Kind of cool.
Image source: Wikipedia

The female, on the other hand, has to build a nest and raise her young. Nests are usually built on rocky surfaces, either in cave entrances or on outcrops. Two eggs are laid in the nest, which is constructed from the female’s saliva, mud and sticks. The eggs hatch after nearly a month of incubation. Young cock-of-the-rocks are dark, and lighten as they age.

Though they seem flashy, cock-of-the-rocks are quite shy birds. They aren’t usually seen unless they are disturbed and caught by surprise. Which is a shame, because they are very pretty birds (if a bit odd looking). It would be especially fun to see a group of males during the breeding season. Birds doing mating dances are always funny to watch.

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