Q is for Quetzal
Many bird watchers travel to Costa Rica to see the beautiful and unusual species of birds. The quetzal is considered to be the most beautiful bird of all the Americas. When a bird watcher is lucky enough to spot this bird, it’s the highlight of their tour.
I was so fortunate to both visit and then live in Costa Rica for a year. Not only did it have beautiful, often bath-like water in the ocean beaches, but it also had the rain forest, which I was able to visit a few times.
Once my teaching colleagues’s mother visited from the US. Her daughter didn’t have a big interest in bird watching – but I did. So she invited me to accompany her to the rain forest where there were often tours to see the birds. Since there were only two of us and the tours were full that day, we went on our own. Kit’s mother was quite knowledgeable about birds and had a well-worn book that told what she didn’t already know about the many species we would see.
Under her tutelage, I learned a lot more about birds. Her book had facts about the rain forest as well as the birds.We learned how a particular kind of fern closed up when someone touched it to in order to protect itself. I loved the sounds of the dripping rain forest and I vividly remember her using a banana leaf to cover her head at one point when the skies opened up and we had a quick shower.
The bird watching gods must have liked our spirit because on our first day out we saw “the resplendent quetzal.” As we walked in silence, she would peer through her binoculars. Suddenly, she stood still. I waited. Her breath came in quick gasps. But she didn’t tell me what she saw for a few minutes. I could tell she was intent and excited. Finally, she let me in on it. “Look. at. this. beautiful. specimen,” she said emphasizing each word, handing me the binoculars. “It’s in that tree to the left. In the leaves,” she added. It took a moment for me to zero in on it. Then, the timing was perfect! I caught a glance of its tail. It spread its wings and flew away from the branch. I couldn’t believe my luck! Although I wished I could have studied its markings, I was wowed by those colors and its long tail.
I thought, I am living in the more beautiful country in the world! I’m not even on a tour. We just walked into this rain forest together. Look what we saw!
I wondered if this was the same bird I missed seeing in Ecuador the year before when our guide pointed out a bird. It had been too dark for me to see anything. But now I had a second chance and boy was I glad that Kit’s mother had asked me to go with her instead of Kit! I wondered for a minute if she’d consider adopting me so we could tramp the world seeing exotic species of birds.
This wonderful video taken from Costa Rica teaches you more about the quetzal. Don’t miss it!
A few months after that bird watching experience, I learned more about the quetzal when I traveled to Guatemala during Semana Santa (Easter). The quetzal is Guatemala’s national bird and also the name of their currency. In the ancient Mayan culture, the quetzal’s tail fathers were used as currency.
The quetzal was considered divine, associated with the “snake god” in Guatemala. It’s glow-in-the-dark green tail symbolizes spring plant growth, were venerated by the ancient Aztec and Maya who viewed the quetzal as the “god of the air” and as a symbol of goodness and light. The Maya also viewed it as a symbol of freedom and wealth. They would capture it, pluck the feathers for their headdress and release it since it was forbidden to hold the quetzal in captivity. It also symbolizes freedom.
I used to collect bank notes from all the countries I visited. This one is worth just half a centavo, a small amount.
I’ve given away most of the coins from my early travels to school children and my nieces but this link shows you what various denominations of the quetzal coins look like.
Coins from Guatemala(Quetzales).
Read about more myths and legends HERE.
What bird do you most admire? Are you a bird watcher? Where have you gone to see them?
You have just read, “Q is for Quetzal,” by Amy L. Bovaird. Copyright April 26, 2015. You can see who else is participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge HERE