Pompadour Cotinga Xipholena punicea

David Snow, Arnau Bonan, Sabrina Aeluro, Guy M. Kirwan, and Andrew J. Spencer
Version: 2.0 — Published July 24, 2020


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Xipholena includes three species of plump, short-tailed cotingas. The plumage of the male is stiff and glossy, and is mostly deep purple to purplish black. Males of all three species also have white wings, although the stiffened and elongated wing coverts partially cover the wings; one species also has a white tail. Females of all three species are primarily smoky gray, paler on the belly, and with narrow white fringes to the wing coverts. In both sexes the iris is contrastingly pale. Pompadour Cotinga is the most widespread member of the genus. The body and tail of the male are a deep metallic burgundy.

Similar Species

Male Pompadour Cotinga is highly distinctive, and is very unlikely to be confused with any other species within its range. It is largely allopatric to the two other species in the genus, White-tailed Cotinga (Xipholena lamellipennis) of southeastern Amazonia and White-winged Cotinga (X. atropurpurea) of the Atlantic Forest in eastern Brazil. There are some reports, perhaps involving dispersing individuals, of White-tailed Cotinga west of the Rio Tapajós, and thus within the range of Pompadour Cotinga (1), so more care needs to be taken with identification in this region. Fortunately, the males of the species are easily distinguished: the body of White-tailed is a much darker, blackish purple, and the tail is entirely white. White-winged Cotinga is completely allopatric, and is also is much a much darker shade of purple than male Pompadour Cotinga.

Female Pompadour Cotinga is less distinctive than the male, although size and shape are useful clues in the identification process. Possibly the female could be mistaken for a large thrush (Turdus) or the female of some species of Cotinga (e.g., Spangled Cotinga [Cotinga cayana]) but can be distinguished by the pale iris and narrow white wing edgings (2, 1). Females of the three species of Xipholena are very similar to one another, however.


Male plumage is characterized by a very heavy deposition of carotenoid pigments ­combined with structural modification of the barbs, producing a hard glossy surface. Among these carotenoids are six novel carotenoids (xipholenin, 2,3-didehydro-xipholenin, pomadourin, 2,3-didehydro-pompadourin, cotingin, and brittonxanthin), each of which contains a methoxyl group; carotenoids containing mexthoxyl groups are rare in nature, and Xipholena is the first bird genus in which they have been found (3, 4).


Resembles the adult female, but the irides are dark (1) .


Males  pass through two intermediate stages  before reaching the definitive plumage after three (presumably annual) molts. Adult remiges are the last part of the plumage to be acquired (5, 6).


Female. Generally ash-gray, paler on the throat and, especially, on the belly and undertail coverts. Wings and tail blacker; outer edges of the greater wing coverts and secondaries white. Also has a very narrow white eyering (1).

Male. Head and body shining crimson-purple, paler (more crimson to deep pink), on the tertials, uppertail coverts, and rectrices. Secondary wing-coverts crimson-purple, greater coverts elongated and stiffened, pointed at their tips, shafts white; rest of wing white, but the tips of the primaries are dusky black (more extensively so on the outer vane); rest of wing white, black tips on primaries; tail largely pale pink to white, more crimson-purple towards outer edges.

Aberrant Plumages

Two specimens of males with highly aberrant plumage are known. One has some golden-yellow feathers on both the upper- and underparts; it is not known if this color is natural, as the exposure to excessive heat or pressure can affect the carotenoid pigments of some cotingas (1). Another specimen is described as orange (3).


Little information. Body molt recorded from January to March in specimens from Peru and Venezuela (5, 7, 1) but the full annual molt cycle has not been described; however, males molt earlier than females, which is the usual pattern in cotinga species in which the male plays no role in parental care (6, 1).

Bare Parts


Broad-based and rather flattened dorsoventrally, slightly hooked at tip, rictal bristles absent. Color dark brownish horn (sometimes with a paler base, between yellowish or pinkish gray, and a darker tip; 1).

Iris and Facial Skin

Iris is pale yellow in adults; but dark (brownish red; 1) in juveniles.

Tarsi and Toes

Moderately strong. Brownish black or black, with buff or yellow soles.


Linear Measurements

Total length: 20 cm (8), 20.3 cm (2), 18.8–23.0 cm (1).

Wing length:

  • male, range 116–129 mm (n = 36; 1)
  • female, range 112–122 mm; n = 20; 1)

Tail length:

  • male, range 64–78 mm (n = 35; 1)
  • female, range 60–72 mm (n = 20; 1)

Bill length (to base of skull):

  • male, range 17.5–20.5 mm (n = 26; 1)
  • female, range 18.2–19.6 mm (n = 12;1)

Tarsus length:

  • male, range 21.6–24.6 mm (n = 10; 1)
  • female, range 21–23 mm (n = 9; 1)


  • male, range 60.0–76.4 (n = ?, 1)
  • female, range 58–76 g (n = ?, 1)

For mass, Kirwan and Green (1) compiled data from various published sources (9, 10, 6, 7), and label data from museum specimens.

Recommended Citation

Snow, D., A. Bonan, A. Aeluro, G. M. Kirwan, and A. J. Spencer (2020). Pompadour Cotinga (Xipholena punicea), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (T. S. Schulenberg, S. M. Billerman, and B. K. Keeney, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.pomcot1.02