Among the beautiful birds in Costa Rica, the cotingas deserve the name of South Pacific jewels. Their name derives from the term tupí-guaraní Catingá which was used to refer to the birds that by their colors shone in the forest. Cotingas belong to a family of birds of which Costa Rica has eight species, four of which are present in the Pacific, emphasizing the turquoise cotinga, the threatened Yellowbilled cotinga and the Three-wattled bellbird.
This family of birds presents elaborate courtship behaviors called leks, in which several males, in order to attract the females, occupy high perches from which they emit sounds, and exhibit themselves to the females under the radiant sun that makes their plumage shine with different shades due to the structural pigment that gives them color. In the case of the blue color of the turquoise cotinga, its pigment is similar to that of the wings of morpho butterflies, quetzals, trogons and many hummingbirds, which change color depending on the incidence of the sun’s rays, exhibiting iridescent tones. The turquoise cotingas with their bright colors are arboreal canopy planters and seed dispersers. Only found in the South Pacific of Costa Rica and West of Panama, its population is decreasing and it is estimated that there are less than 7,000 individuals, so it is considered vulnerable to extinction. The male of the turquoise cotinga presents a spectacular blue and purple coloration quite distinctive while the female has brown tones. They have been observed whistling and making noise with the cannons of their outermost wing feathers. Their nests have not been discovered since they are between 9 and 11 meters high and very difficult to detect.
If you have cotingas in your garden, consider yourself lucky, your presence indicates forest quality. Let the guarumos grow and plant phosphorillos. If you wish to report the common presence of cotingas in a certain area for research, protection and control purposes, please write to us!
By Susana Garcia
CONTACT: Biol. Susana García Blanco Costa Rica Birding B&B [email protected]