Seriously. Just look at this guy. (And make no mistake: it is a guy. Andean Cocks-of-the-rock exhibit all manner of sexual dimorphism.) This showy little dude has got so much plumage happening on his face, you can barely even tell there's a beak hidden under there.
Top image by nathaninsandiego via the ever-excellent WTFEvolution?
Speaking of beaks, what's really great about this photo is that there's a bit of an optical illusion at work. At first glance you might assume, as I did, that this Cock-of-the-rock's beak is itself covered in feathers, and way bigger than it actually is. Like, Iago-from-Aladdin status. In actuality, however, that's just its crest — a disk-shaped tuft of bright orange plumage that cascades over its bill like the most goddamn fabulous tangerine-colored combover you've ever laid eyes on.
More excellent facts about the Andean Cock-of-the-rock, gleaned from The Birds of South America: The Suboscine Passerines, by Robert S. Ridgely and Guy Tudor:
- The Andean Cock-of-the-rock (not to be confused with the Guianan Cock-of-the-rock), is shy and inconspicuous, and "all too often seen only briefly, flying away after being flushed, or hurtling down a valley in swift direct flight."
- Ridgely and Tudor note that the best place to see Cocks-of-the-rock is at what's known as a "display lek" (i.e. a group of males, gathered for the sake of a competitive mating display]; "which unfortunately is not easy," they write, "as the birds are wary and easily disturbed."
- Studies of these leks have found that the foppish and pugnacious males in attendance will divide up into pairs and perform confrontation displays, facing off in pairs to bow, jump, and flap their wings,"occasionally snapping their bills, all the while giving a variety of squeaking or grunting calls" in a "cacophony of bright color, rapid motion, and weird sounds, raised to a veritable frenzy by the approach of a female."
- Apparently, foraging Cocks-of-the-rock of both sexes give what Ridgely and Tudor describe as "a loud, querulous 'uankk?'" when disturbed.
I'd like to propose we all start using "uankk?" in place of "WTF?". As in: "we found this awesome picture of an Andean Cock-of-the-rock at Uankk, Evolution?." (Which, all jokes aside, is a tumblr you should all be following.)