Bird Bios: Andean Cock-of-the-Rock is Machu Picchu's Most Iconic Bird

May 09, 2012
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Many distinct animals make their homes in South America's Andes mountain range, including the brilliantly colored Rupicola peruviana - commonly known as the Andean cock-of-the-rock. And since Peru is home to the most known bird species in the world, the Andean cock-of-the rock had to beat out some impressive species to earn the title of “national bird. ” The main reasons this bird was chosen above the other hundreds of bird species found in Peru are its striking plumage and unique mating rituals.

The male Andean cock-of-the-rock is boldly colored with bright orange feathers adorning its head with a body juxtaposed by dark blue wings. The feathers atop these birds' heads form a protruding disc-shaped tuft that give the males a stunning appearance. Their wings are adorned with pale gray feathers that run along the bottom edge that give the appearance of a stripe along their back when they are not flying. The female cock-of-the-rock looks almost nothing like the male. It has a reddish-brown coloration, and the crest is far less pronounced. This is typical of many bird species, as it helps the female conceal herself and her nest when raising her chicks to elude predators.

When it comes time to mate, male cock-of-the-rock birds get together in a large group and perform a choreographed dance as females look on. They even gather in a lek, an area used for communal displays of courtship. The best “dancer” gets his pick of the females and typically breeds with multiple partners. These birds are not the only animals to behave in such a manner during mating seasons, but they do put a great deal of effort into their dance, practicing throughout the year to perfect it. Once the eggs hatch, the females take responsibility for rearing the chicks, as the males have exhausted their parental energy on the mating dance.

The Andean cock-of-the-rock can be seen throughout Peru, and if you're planning small group travel to tour Machu Picchu, you should keep an eye out for these beautiful birds. International Expeditions has chosen accommodations at the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel specifically for its location within the cloud forest, where these birds are commonly spotted.