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Exploring Nature: Andean Birds

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Do I have a favorite bird?

Not really, I honestly enjoy about anything with feathers, ranging from a giant condor to a bee hummingbird. I even get a kick from my resident Carolina chickadees and crested titmice.

But I’ll have to admit there is one avian creature that I’ve come to recall with unmitigated delight — the Andean cock-ofthe rock. This regal bird, about the size of a robin, has a round yellow eye, and is orangish-red on its head, back and shoulders, with a feathery crest like a Roman helmet. Its back and tail are shades of gray and black.

A thoroughly unique bird.

I saw it on a long-ago trip to Peru and it was the culmination of a longtime effort to see the bird. I had seen a female on a trip to Panama, but was determined to see the more colorful male. I did so after our group flew to Cusco in South America and stayed overnight in a former mansion of a Spanish noble.

I recall we dined at El Mirador Restaurant and I had my first pisco sour — delightful. I also liked the Brahma brand beer — hearty stuff.

We took a bus through the cloud forest and arrived at Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge. My reasoning was that our chances of seeing a cock-of-the-rock would be enhanced if we stayed at a place sonamed.

And I was right. We walked a short distance from the hotel to a forest lek where many of these vibrant birds flittered around in profusion. What a sight.

We also saw a strong supporting cast of longtailed potoos, green honeycreepers and giant Andean hummingbirds. Plus butterflies and orchids. Wow.

And while my favorite of the lot was the cockof the-rock, I was also impressed when we went on to visit the ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.

But that’s gist for a whole separate column.

San Marcos Record

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P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666