Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Akai Tori

A few days ago, I mentioned I’d like some red birds from someone, since I now knew the phrase for red bird in Japanese – and Heliconia came through nearly instantly with these beauties:

UFD I. Image courtesy Heliconia.

All right, so they’re arguably orange. But it’s definitely a red-orange. Heliconia was a bit worried about them being arguably orange rather than reliably red, but I say this is fine – I can show off my (laughably infinitesimal) Japanese vocabulary and call them aki tori* – autumn birds. Because orange and red are colors of autumn. So it works. Just nod, smile, and go with it, people.

UFD II. Image courtesy Heliconia.
UFD II. Image courtesy Heliconia.

Heliconia provided excellent information regarding our aki or akai tori:

Last year I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to volunteer for an avian research project in the Peruvian cloud forest, and these birds had a lek about half a kilometre from our camp. (Lekking is a type of courtship behaviour in which a bunch of males congregate to display to females, often at the same site, or lek, every year.) Whenever a female flew by, all the males at the lek – seven or eight at any given time – would all start flapping their wings and seesawing back and forth on their perches while making a sound that might best be described as the noise a seagull would make if it had laryngitis and a megaphone. (There are lots of videos of this behaviour on YouTube.) Unfortunately, my camera has terrible zoom and we couldn’t get any closer to the lek without disturbing the birds, so these pictures don’t show the birds’ oddly-shaped head: they have a crest of feathers protruding from their foreheads so only a tiny bit of their beaks stick out.

UFD III. Image courtesy Heliconia.
UFD III. Image courtesy Heliconia.

I’m also attaching a picture of one of their nests (an abandoned one). It’s in the upper centre-right of the picture, behind the green vine; the nest itself is about a foot across and at least ten feet above a stream, built right onto a cliff ledge.

UFD IV. Image courtesy Heliconia.
UFD IV. Image courtesy Heliconia.

Geology and akai tori! Woot!

I cropped the nest for easier viewing:

UFD V. Image courtesy Heliconia.
UFD V. Image courtesy Heliconia.

With all that information, plus the lovely photos, I think most of you can manage an ident. Bonus points if you locate a YouTube video where we can hear this remarkable mating call of theirs.

Thank you, Heliconia!


*Yes, this probably is grammatically incorrect. No hablo Japanese.

Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Akai Tori
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7 thoughts on “Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Akai Tori

  1. 3

    It’s gallito de las rocas in Spanish – I’m sure there’s also a Quechua name but I never learned it.

    Now if anyone wants to identify all the plants, or tell us something about the rocks…

  2. rq

    The Quechua name seems to be ‘tunqui’ or ‘tunki’.
    A very poetic description of Machu Picchu: http://in-lan.com/2008/03/machu-picchu-the-heights-of-nature/?lang=en
    An excerpt about the ‘tunqui’: “Tunquis seem like orchids that once dreamed of flying and were rewarded by becoming bright red-coral birds in the highest and lushest forests of the world.”
    Can’t find what it actually means, though, so it might be a non-sense name from the bird’s song, since I can’t seem to find any reference to its colour or anything else. Alternatively, could just be that there isn’t a Quechua-English dictionary online good enough. :)

    Not going to attempt the plants or the rocks. Sorry, heliconia, on your own! :)

  3. 7

    While living in Ghana, I often saw a brilliant red bird in tall grasses. Unfortunately, I could never get a picture. But do see the images of the Northern Red Bishop Euplectes franciscanus!

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