Male Guianan cocks-of-the-rock are bright orange birds with large, orange, half-moon crests on their heads. This edge of the crest is lined with a brown band. The crest remains erect and covers the bill. They have black and white wing bars and black on their tails. The bill, legs, and skin are orange as well. Females are a drab brown color. Their bill is black with a yellow tip and they have a smaller crest than the males.
Despite their name, the several species of fruitcrows are not related to crows at all, though they do eat many kinds of fruit, which they gather both while in flight and perching in trees. Like many other members of the cotinga family, the males have a distinctive display, courting the all black females by flaring out their brilliant throat feathers (which can appear bright red), shaking their tails back and forth and making piercing calls. A relative of the Cock-of-the-rock, this species has only rarely been kept in captivity, despite being found over a vast area of South America, as well as Costa Rica and Panama. It was not bred in a zoo until 2006, when the Wuppertal Zoo in Germany was successful.
Depending on the light, males may appear black, bright red, pink, or purple. Research conducted at Yale University’s Peabody Museum of Natural History, with the assistance of the DWA, has established that this species’ color is due to unique carotenoid pigments previously unknown in birds.
This strange bird, with its bald head and huge dark eyes, is also known as the Calf bird, because of its remarkably loud deep call. Like the Cock-of-the-rock, it is a member of the Cotinga family, found only in Tropical America. Its range is defined by the intersection of three rivers: Amazon, Orinoco, and Rio Negro. Though first taken into captivity nearly 60 years ago, it has always been a treasured rarity in zoos. Until the DWA achieved multiple successes in 2011, the only full captive breedings had been at San Diego Zoo, in the 1990s.
Every year since 2007, this remarkable bird has reproduced at the DWA. Through May 2011, 40 had hatched here, with 26 surviving to independence. Prior to this time, the total number successfully reared in US zoos were four at Houston and one at San Diego, with the last hatching occurring in 1989. Offspring from the DWA have been sent around the world, and the first second generation breedings took place at the San Diego Zoo in 2011, with males from Dallas. While performing their courtship display, males make buzzing shrieks that can be heard throughout the Orinoco. Nesting takes place in specially built artificial caves.