Swallow-tailed Cotinga

Alan Martin, Sue Healey, Raquel and I went to visit Lila, a friend of REGUA who lives in the area of Macae de Cima.   This is a higher altitude area where our visitors go to see species which can be accessed more easily here than on REGUA land.

Reinaldo, Lila’s bird guide  told us to look out for Swallow-tailed Cotinga on the nest in the garden.

Swallow-tailed Cotinga
Swallow-tailed Cotinga (© Nicholas Locke)

It took a while of peering through the mist, but Alan eventually found the nest and we spent the rest of the day observing the care that the parents bestowed on their ravenous young.   The Swallow-tailed Cotinga (Phibalura flavirostris) is a species endemic to the South-East Brazil Atlantic Forest and is immediately identifiable by its ‘swallow-tail’ feathers and black and yellow speckled plumage – hence the word ‘flavirostris’.

These are not common birds and all the bird watchers that come to these shores are anxious to see one.    The higher altitude areas give a greater chance to see them, usually high in the canopy where they forage for fruit.    They have also been seen in groups on Pico Caledonia and this sighting was especially significant for it’s rare to find them on their nest.

The nests are built on branch forks and although they appear delicate they must be quite firmly in place as they are often subject to strong winds and survive.

The birds alternated looking after their young, with one brooding whilst the other headed off to find food for the chicks. The wind and drizzle tested their perseverance and determination but they continued to feed their young all day.

The interesting feature was the colouring of one of the adults. It appeared very dark and we were puzzled with its lack of its distinctive yellow chin. Does anyone have an idea as why this bird is so dark?

Nicholas Locke