Cotingas in Aviculture, Part II


Part I, published in the Watchbird XXXIV Number 2, included a history of cotingas in aviculture, and an overview of their diets in captivity. Accounts of cotingas now present in American public or private collections follow, with four species discussed here.

Screaming Piha (Lipaugus vociferans)

Of cotingas currently in aviculture, this species stands out for its superficially "ordinary" appearance. From pictures, it appears "gray and thrush-like" In life, it is more reminiscent of a New World Flycatcher (to which cotingas are, after all, closely related).

Its large dark eyes are an immediately attractive feature. On the other hand, what is not at all ordinary is its very loud, three-note whistle (scarcely a "scream"), performed in a lekking display, one of the typical "jungle noises" across its enormous South American range. It occurs east of the Andes, including eastern Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, as well as the Guianas, Venezuela, Brazil, and Bolivia.

Specimens in aviculture originate from Suriname, from where softbills continue to be commercially exported. I am unaware of any arriving in Europe or the U.S. before the 1990's. As of May, 2006, the International Species Information System (ISIS) listed three specimens distributed between two European zoos. Aside from a male at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, the U.S. zoo population was concentrated around the Great Lakes. A pair was exhibited at the National Aviary at Pittsburgh, while single birds were kept atToledo, Madison, and the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. As of late 2007, ISIS lists a male and an unsexed bird at the National Aquarium, and single birds at the National Aviary, Toledo and Madison. In 2007 The Dallas World Aquarium received four birds from Suriname.

So far as I know, nothing has been written about this species in captivity. I am therefore most grateful to Lori Smith, Senior Aviculturist at the National Aquarium in Baltimore for providing data about the pi has there. A single pair maintained in the Aquarium's rain forest hatched one chick each year from 2000 through 2003, with a fifth hatched in 2005. To my knowledge, this is the only captive propagation to have occurred. The chick hatched 22 October 2000 drowned immediately after fledging, on 22 November. The same fate overtook the bird hatched 14 May 2001, which died 4 June. The chick hatched 29 October 2002 disappeared the day it hatched, while the chick hatched 14 September 2005 disappeared after two days. The chick produced 31 August 2003 hatched in an incubator and was hand-reared, but died after three days, having difficulty passing feces.

The breeding female died in 2006.

The pair shared the 519,060 cubic foot rain forest with a free-ranqinq pair of Golden Lion Tamarins, a Two-toed Sloth and seventeen other species of birds, including seven species of tanagers (four of which are Tangaras), Blue~headed Pionus, Sun Conures, Red~capped Cardinals, Saffron Finches, Blue~crowned Motmots, and white-tailed Trogons (which successfully bred here for the first time in captivity). While in general, cornpatibility problems have not been an issue, the male Piha proved intolerant of male Spangled Cotingas, actually repeatedly killing them before it was decided to no longer maintain Spangled Cotingas (which had bred there) in this exhibit.

I have found the birds at The Dallas World Aquarium remarkably tame, leading me to suspect they may have been collected from the wild as fledglings. They spend most of their time in the highest parts of their aviary, but when new diets are placed in the feeding station, they drop straight down in a swoop, again rerniniscent of tyrant flycatchers, and commence eating, not minding at all if I stand inches away. The ones I work with avidly eat crickets, but seem uninterested in giant mealworms. Other preferred foods are blueberries and Mazuri ZuLiFe Soft-bill Diet pellets.

Spangled Cotinga (Cotinga cayana)

Although this species made its avicultural debut in 1929 when the department store magnate J. Speden Lewis donated a pair to the London Zoo (Seth-Smith. 1930), it was an extreme rarity in captivity until the 1980's, when Dutch dealers began...



• Azua, J. 2002. Bird Division. Denver Zoo 2001 Annual Report. Denver Zoological Gardens.

• Coles, D. 2003 First breeding records for birds reared to independence under controlled conditions in the United Kingdom. Dave Coles Books.

• Couch, H., M. O'Conner & E. Saksefski 2003. Spangled Cotinga (Cotinga cayana) (Unpublished manuscript)

• Delacour, J.T. 1925. Pittas, Chatterers, Tyrants, etc. Avicultural Magazine. Ser.4, Vol.3:161 ~ 169.

• Ellis, M. 2006 Editor's note. Avicultural Magazine. 112:23.

• Francis, J.E.R. 2006. l-land-rearinq a Spangled Cotinga (Cotinga cayana). Avicultural Magazine. 112:19~23.

• Perretta, N. 2003. Hand-rearinq

Passerines at the San Diego Zoo. American Federation of Aviculture Convention Proceedings 2003. (In litt.).

• Seth-Smith, D. 1930. The Purple~throat~ ed Cotinga. Avicultural Magazine Ser.4, Vol.8:9~ 10.

• Zoological Society of London 1960~ 1998. Birds bred in captivity 1959~ 1996. International Zoo Yearbook 1~36.