February 5, 2024
Pompadour and Circumstance
- as seen by -Bryan Kao
One of the most unique birds of the Amazon rainforest canopy in Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and the Guiana Shield is the male Pompadour cotinga (Xipholena punicea), named after Madame de Pompadour of eighteenth-century France, whose favorite color was purple.
With his bright burgundy and plum feathers that would make Madame de Pompadour proud, contrasted against white wings and piercing yellow eyes, this bird looks like he took a bath in strawberry jam. His plumage’s color is so distinct that it consists of eight different carotenoid pigments, six of which are unique to this bird and absent from any other living organism. The cotinga’s color, unlike that of flamingos, is not dependent on specific foods in his diet, which is mostly fruit and some insects. In contrast, females are a drab gray for camouflage. They are attracted to dominant males that chase off other males in rituals. The male’s call sounds like a tree frog’s croak.
Despite their bold flashy colors, Pompadour cotingas are rarely observed in the wild, and their nesting behaviors have only been glimpsed on a few occasions. In 1916, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo was historically the first zoo in the world widely known to work with the species, when William Beebe acquired one from the Tropical Research Station in Guyana.
EDITOR’S NOTE: During 2024, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo is celebrating 125 years. Since opening its doors in 1899, more than a half billion visitors have come to the zoo to experience the awe and beauty of animals and the natural world.
Canon EOS Rebel T7 with 75-300mm Lens