Ecuador Kayaking: The Andean Cock Of The Rock

Andean Cock of the Rock

The brilliant coloring of the male Andean Cock of the Rock or Gallo de Peña. Author Jerry Tompson- Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

First off, I didn’t take this photo. It takes a lot of patience, a big lens and a truckload of luck to get a shot of this bird in the wild. This one was photographed at the San Diego Zoo. We consider ourselves lucky if we get to see one of these birds a season. When you see it, you know it. Imagine a chicken-sized bird the color of an orange safety-cone, flying across a background of green foliage. Needless to say, they stand out! In our  experience, they are also extremely bashful and highly-skilled at evading being viewed once they have landed. As with many species, the females have what the males want, so there is no need to don such extravagant plumage.  Instead, the female’s coloring is a crisp rust, which makes her harder to spot.

Most frequently, the Cock of the Rocks have revealed themselves to us near the confluence of the Cosanga and Quijos Rivers. Our kayaks give us the advantage of being in a position to see them flying in the open as they cross from one side of the river to the other.  The Spanish name, Gallo de Peña (Cock of the Cliff Face) is a very appropriate name for these birds. At the confluence, the cliffs are densely laden with trees and vegetation, providing the birds with superb cover. A typical sighting usually occurs when the lead kayaker unknowingly flushes one out.  The solitary bird quickly sprints to the opposite shore, much like a dog might risk running across a street.  It is rare that everyone in the group sees it, and very common that the lead kayaker (who did the initial flushing) even knows what has occurred.  A sighting is often followed by a volley of “Did you see that!!?”

Perhaps it is because of the dryer-than-normal season that we have been experiencing, but between the various participants on our trips thus far this year, we have seen over 7 males and two females on several rivers in both drainages. To learn a bit more about these birds click here.

Kayaker boofing rock.

Dave R. does his best imitation of the "Cock of the Rock".

Photos and content ©DeRiemer Adventure Kayaking except where noted. All rights reserved.

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