Rupicola rupicolaGuianan cock-of-the-rock

Geographic Range

Guianan cocks-of-the-rock (Rupicola rupicola) are native to South America. They are found in countries with heavily-forested areas east of the Andes Mountains and north of the Amazon River, such as Brazil, the Guianas, Venezuela, Colombia, and Suriname. (Sohn, et al., 2013)


Guianan cocks-of-the-rock prefer montane forest habitats. They gather in large numbers during breeding season in areas called leks. Leks are situated in forests with low, sparse canopy cover and dense understory cover consisting of saplings. Lek areas typically cover about 100 m² of forest floor. Information regarding the elevation of lek sites is not consistently reported.

At lek sites, individual males have their own display sites, which cover about 1 m² of forest floor. If males are not immediately within their display sites, they are typically found on horizontal perches about 2 m above their display sites. Females build their nests away from lek sites to reduce the likelihood of egg predation and avoid possible food depletion. (Endler and Théry, 1996)

Physical Description

On average, Guianan cocks-of-the-rock weigh about 195 g, are 303 mm in length, and have wingspans 180 mm in length. Males tend to be larger than females on average. Males are also brightly colored and have a more pronounced crest on their heads. When extended, their crests are bright orange with brownish feathers along the outer edge. Males have predominantly orange-red plumage, with yellow-orange fringed feathers on their wings. Furthermore, the undersides of their wings have white bars. The tail feathers of males are primarily black with white tips. Their feet and bills are also yellow-orange in color.

Female and juvenile Guianan cocks-of-the-rock are less colorful than males. Their coloration helps them camouflage with their environment to avoid predators. Adult females have smaller crests and are dark brown in color, with yellow bills and feet. Juvenile are similar in appearance to adult females. Males develop their colorful plumage when they are around 3 years old. (Dunning, 2008; Endler and Théry, 1996; Gilliard, 1962; Rabin, et al., 2003; Snow, 1971)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • male more colorful
  • Average mass
    195 g
    6.87 oz
  • Range length
    303 (high) mm
    11.93 (high) in
  • Range wingspan
    180 (high) mm
    7.09 (high) in


Male Guianan cocks-of-the-rock attract mates by putting on displays in courting areas, called leks. Although males maintain their territories year round, mating and courting occurs seasonally, from December to April.

Each individual male within a lek defends a circular "court" approximately 1 m in diameter. Males begin their courtship ritual with a bugle-like call to assemble females in the area. Males then beat their wings followed by periods of silence in which they maintain stationary positions and display their elaborate wing coloration to females.

Females observe male displays from perches located 2 to 10 m above the lek area. If a female approves of the display of a male, the female enters the court area. The male then spreads its wings in recognition of the female. After this, the female either leaves the court without mating or remains in the court, indicating its willingness to mate. Copulation occurs on the ground and females leave the area immediately afterward.

Male Guianan cocks-of-the-rock mate with multiple females in a season. Some females only mate with one male in a breeding season, while other females mate with multiple males. Sometimes this is due to an interrupted copulation event caused by another female entering the court, forcing the first female to find a new mate. As a species, Guianan cocks-of-the-rock are polygynandrous. (Gilliard, 1962; Trail and Adams, 1989; Trail and Koutnik, 1986)

Guianan cocks-of-the-rock breed from late December to April. Some females visit 2 to 3 courts per season if they have failed to produce eggs. Guianan cocks-of-the-rock are iteroparous, meaning they typically survive to reproduce during multiple breeding seasons. The average clutch size consists of 2 eggs, with an incubation period averaging 28 days. There is limited information on average birth mass, time of fledging, and age at sexual maturity for females.

Males begin defending their own territory at the age of 3 or 4 years and begin mating at the age of 4.

Courtship disruption can be performed by dominant males, yearling males and females. Adult males sometimes remove females from the territories of competing males. Males use high-pitched calls and beat their wings to disrupt mating pairs. They may also lunge directly at mating pairs. In some cases, males that displace a mating male mount the mating female immediately, or directly attack the displaying male. Disruption caused by yearlings is not seen as a threat. Yearlings mimic adult males by mounting females and circling the lek in preparation for adult sexual behavior. Some females also disrupt courtship by removing other females from male territories. (Snow, 1971; Trail and Adams, 1989; Trail and Koutnik, 1986)

  • Breeding interval
    Guianan cocks-of-the-rock breed once a year.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs between December and April.
  • Average eggs per season
  • Average time to hatching
    28 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    4 (high) years

There is limited information regarding the parental investment strategies of Guianan cocks-of-the-rock. Males are not involved in parental care beyond the act of mating. After copulation, females return to their nesting sites, where they lay their eggs. Females select nesting areas that are separate from breeding areas to reduce egg predation risk and improve the chances of having sufficient resources to raise young. It is unclear how involved females are in raising their young once they are hatched. (Endler and Théry, 1996)


There is limited information regarding lifespans of Guianan cocks-of-the-rock in the wild. However, they are reported to survive approximately 7 years in captivity. Mortality in captivity is often associated with high levels of stress, which may decrease the maximum lifespan of Guianan cocks-of-the-rock compared to wild populations. (Flower, 1938; Sohn, et al., 2013)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    7 years


Guianan cocks-of-the-rock are diurnal and have the ability to fly, but they typically stay in one area of forest throughout their lives. They do not migrate seasonally.

Guianan cocks-of-the-rock have a loose social organization. High levels of competition relate to instability within groups of Guianan cocks-of-the-rock. Males are very territorial, often fighting for the best courting space and for individual females during breeding season. The death of a reproductive male often results in competition among other males for control of the vacated courting space.

Females are less territorial. They sometimes fly to the lek area in groups. They are not often seen fighting over potential mates, though they have been observed to disrupt copulation events and displace other females. (Trail and Koutnik, 1986)

  • Average territory size
    1 m^2

Home Range

There is limited information regarding home range sizes for Guianan cocks-of-the-rock. Males defend circular territories, called courts, which are roughly 0.5 to 2.0 m in diameter. They also defend a perching area about 1 to 2 m above their courts. Females do not defend specific territories. They usually nest in caves, about 30 m in diameter at the opening. (Gilliard, 1962)

Communication and Perception

Female Guianan cocks-of-the-rock emit high-pitched "kiuoou" calls, which draw males to specific areas to begin their displays. Males communicate by letting out bugle-like calls, termed "assembly calls", upon entering unoccupied lek sites. Males also make loud squawking noises that can cause other males to flee a given area.

Guianan cocks-of-the-rock also communicate using visual, physical, and chemical stimuli. For example, when a male enters a courting area that is already occupied, the resident male begins to bob its head and snap its bill at the intruder, after which the two males fight each other. (Gilliard, 1962)

Food Habits

Guianan cocks-of-the-rock are generalist frugivores. Males require carotenoids in their diet to produce the orange pigments found in their feathers. Both sexes eat fruits such as drupes, berries, and capsules.

In a 1993 study, researchers found seeds from 111 plant species in 34 families underneath perch sites of male Guianan cocks-of-the-rock. There is less information regarding the diets of juveniles. (Endler and Théry, 1996; Théry and Larpin, 1993)

  • Plant Foods
  • fruit


Female and juvenile Guianan cocks-of-the-rock have drab coloration, which helps them camouflage with their environment and avoid predation. Male Guianan cocks-of-the-rock are brightly colored and thus are at higher risk of predation compared to females. However, the dense vegetation surrounding lek sites often makes it difficult for predators to detect them during their mating displays. Known predators of Guianan cocks-of-the-rock include: crested eagles (Morphnus guianensis), ornate hawk-eagles (Spizaetus ornatus), great black hawks (Buteogallus urubitinga), white hawks (Leucopternis albicollis), collared forest-falcons (Micrastur semitorquatus), bicolored hawks (Accipiter bicolor), and red-tailed boas (Boa constrictor).

Guianan cocks-of-the-rock defend themselves from predators in a number of ways. They often assemble in groups and, when they sense danger, initiate alarm calls, otherwise known as "hey" calls, to warn nearby conspecifics or scare off potential predators. In addition to alarm calls, Guianan cocks-of-the-rock often initiate "spooks", in which groups of males all flee a lek simultaneously. The chaos of a spook makes it difficult for potential predators to select a single target. (Trail, 1987)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Guianan cocks-of-the-rock are generalist frugivores and thus play an important role in dispersing native seeds. Guianan cocks-of-the-rock use different areas to feed, nest, and mate. Therefore, seeds ingested in one location are likely to be defecated or regurgitated in entirely different locations. Guianan cocks-of-the-rock can have an impact on forest structure since germinating seeds from their diet grow in clumps or patches based on where Guianan cocks-of-the-rock are nesting or breeding.

There is no information regarding common parasites that use Guianan cocks-of-the-rock as hosts. (Théry and Larpin, 1993; Wenny, 2001)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Guianan cocks-of-the-rock serve as a source of ecotourism for countries in their geographic range. The bright coloration and vibrant displays of males are entertaining to watch. However, they often live in remote montane forest habitats, which can be difficult to access and thus limit the number of people that visit. (Sohn, et al., 2013)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Guianan cocks-of-the-rock have no known negative economic impacts on humans.

Conservation Status

Guianan cocks-of-the-rock are listed on the IUCN Red List as a species of "least concern." However, their populations are noted as being in decline. The expansion of urban areas and frequent disturbances by tourists are negatively impacting this species.

Guianan cocks-of-the-rock are also listed under Appendix II of CITES, which means that it is illegal to import or export them without proper permits and ensured safe transport. Guianan cocks-of-the-rock are not listed on any other national or international protection lists. (BirdLife International, 2012; Sohn, et al., 2013)


Whitley Gilbert (author), Radford University, Karen Powers (editor), Radford University, April Tingle (editor), Radford University, Emily Clark (editor), Radford University, Cari Mcgregor (editor), Radford University, Jacob Vaught (editor), Radford University, Galen Burrell (editor), Special Projects.



living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


an animal that mainly eats fruit


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


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