Birds of Lago Atitlan

Hay mucho.

El Mirador

We went to see two things: the cloud forest and a quetzal. We saw one of those things.

The Resplendent Quetzal is the state bird of Guatemala. It lives up to its name. It has a dainty, yellow beak, an awesome mohawk, coral blue shoulders, a royal red belly, and a lime green forked tail that’s as twice as long as its body. It looks like, to me at least, the bird your kids would imagine after being asked to draw and color a tropical bird from some foreign country (see photo above, courtesy of Wikipedia). I’m hoping to see one in person one day….

(Since being in Guatemala, I’ve had this fantasy — which unfortunately demonstrates my ego; it’s also muy Colonel Kurtz of me — about a quetzal landing on my shoulder in some city centre and then the locals, shortly thereafter, declaring me king. The quetzal, which I’d name Buster, would remain on or near my should for the rest of my life and would become my best friend while the two of us guided Guatemala into the most advanced, progressive, and stable country in the world. We’d also eat a lot of Sponches together.)

Bird Noises

No roosters necessary here. A varietal of birds will wake you every morning.

Great-tailed Grackles start the morning with a fire alarm. Followed by a mechanical clacking. Then finish with a broken bicycle bell honk. While they do this, they fan their great tails and flaunt their long necks, fawning for other grackles. Or perhaps the campers. Then Tropical Mockingbirds, a white and grey and fairly clandestine bird, until it’s time to call, will sing through its entire songbook of calls. This takes several minutes. Then finally, the clay-colored thrush, a drab, dirt-colored bird that’s risen to the distinction of the state bird of Costa Rica, will complete a variety of “pretty bird” whistles. These beautiful “noises” will wake you by six.

Dog Fighters

We’ve narrowed it down to three: Black-Capped Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, and/or White-throated Swift. Our guts, our eyes really, think it’s one of the swallows, based on wingspan alone. But we’re not sure. They are swift. And erratic. They zig and zag and dive and dash like dog fighters in Top Gun. They also get particularly active at dusk. Given their shape and flight patterns, they’re easy to confound with bats.

Hummingbird Haven

For the next three weeks and for last three weeks — yes, I’m behind with the posts — we’ve been staying at a campground slash hotel, Pasaj Cap. Check it out here. It was built from stones and wood harvested onsite, and designed by a French architect, Pierre, with modernist and minimalists proclivities. The landscaping is lush and vibrant. Hummingbirds flutter everywhere. I’ve seen both the Cinnamon and White-eared Hummingbirds just outside our windows.

La Nariz del Indio

We hiked Indian Nose, as the locals say to us gringos, yesterday. Didn’t see many birds. Our guide, Clemente, who is also our Spanish tutor, blamed that fact on the locals clearcutting the forests. I did, or at least I think I did, see a Blue-and-White Mockingbird — I wasn’t confident enough in the spot to claim it in my bird log. I was, however, impressed with the hike. Incredible, panoramic views of the lake (see below).

Otros Pajaros

Quick list of other unique (to me at least) birds we’ve seen here: White-winged Dove, Bronzed Cowbird, Western Wood-Pewee, Yellow Warbler, Blue-gray Tanager, Rufous-collared Sparrow, and Black-venter Oriole. Hoping to see a lot more before we depart.

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