Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Extant Theropod Appreciation #6: The Capuchinbird

You know what's hard to find? Good video of Perissocephalus tricolor, popularly known as the Capuchinbird. The best footage I've seen is in the "Signals and Songs" episode of David Attenborough's The Life of Birds, which I am rewatching on Netflix instant right now. One of the wildest sounds I've ever heard a bird make comes out of the Capuchinbird, a nasally, harsh, droning sound that explains its second nickname, the Calfbird (which is what Attenborough calls it in the series).

Here's one of the only videos available at Youtube.

I love this bird, a member of the South American tribe of passerines called cotingas; it's normally found in Guyana and Brazil. With its bald, pale blue head and tawny body, it's delightfully ugly, as if in open defiance against the most beautiful members of avian kind. In the Life of Birds footage, the bird's grotesqueness is even further amplified when its neck pouch inflates, stretching it to the point of translucence. That in itself isn't too odd, but the feathers of the Capuchinbird are arranged such that the front of the inflated pouch is completely covered, leaving only a small "window" on the side which can be seen through. Combined with the rest of its bizarre body and the otherworldly sound it makes, it's a striking effect that brings home the ability of nature to devise endless ways to startle and amuse.

Perissocephalus tricolor
Photo by Joao Quental, via flickr.

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