Science

Have You Seen These Amazing Birds?

Before the rapid growth of the Metropolitan area of La Paz, its wildlife used to live closer to humans. Culpeos, vizcachas, and rheas could all be found next to the city, which I find pretty interesting. However, as La Paz became more and more civilized and modernized, all of those terrestrial species had gone, which left the birds to thrive in La Paz, and that’s what made me a big bird enthusiast. I wish to share some of my enthusiasm with you. 

The most common hummingbird you will see in La Paz is the beautiful Sparkling Violetear (Colibri Coruscans). It has a majestic, glistering green-and-blue plumage, and enjoys tubular flowers (obviously). It is not all that friendly, however, to other hummingbirds, not even of the same species. It usually takes control over a small number of trees and sings to tell everyone to stay back from its precious trees. If other hummingbirds come and suck on its flowers, the violetear will ferociously defend its tree, often with an angry “growl” of sorts. Not even bumblebees are willing to stay and fight back, choosing instead to dart away, fearing the violetear’s wrath. Interestingly, it is the only Paceñan hummingbird to actually be a colibrí. All others are just picaflores. 

Early in the morning, a lot of neighborhoods can hear a weird low-pitched screech— “Eeerrr, eer”—just like a creaky door opening. At first, I thought what was making those noises were just cicadas, since they too make loud, banshee wails. That’s when I discovered the White-tipped plantcutter (Phytotoma Rutilis, or Cortarramas argentino, in Spanish). They are sexually dimorphic, meaning the male and female look very different, like lions. The male plantcutter has a brown head, wings, back and tail, and an orange chest; while the female is beige all over except for the belly, which is white, with small brown lines covering all its body. During mating season (i.e. from September to February), male plantcutters scream “eerrr! eerrr!” to signify that that place is their territory. They do this year round, and the females scream as well, but not as loudly as males in mating season.

There are very few natural trees in the Andes. The only one I can name is the Polylepis, and even then, they are rather rare. So how can a woodpecker peck wood in these mountains? Meet the Andean flicker (Colaptes Rupicola, or Carpintero Andino in Spanish): it is a woodpecker with a yellow head and chest with a dark stripe extending down its head, back, wings and tail, with yellow edges on the wing feathers, and a long, powerful beak. It makes a very distinctive cry, sounding like a very weird “EHEHEHE” laugh. From this cry comes its aymaran name, Yaka-yaka. Instead of pecking at trees, it pecks the floor, scavenging for insects, beetles, and beetle larvae. I find it hilarious how they angrily slam their heads against the floor multiple times!

Another common bird is the Gray-hooded parakeet (Psilopsiagon Aymara, or just Perico in Spanish). It is a green parakeet with a gray head and a pale gray chest. It is very vocal and social, so many come to one tree, squawk a lot in discord, and then leave to the next tree. They often visit the molles in Calle Las Higueras, next to our school. That is why there’s a lot of bird poop under those trees; they love to eat the molle peppers.

There are many other birds of Nuestra Señora de La Paz that were not discussed here, many of which are fascinating, and all of which are pretty (or at least most of them). But you don’t need to read an article to learn about these birds! Go set a small birdbath and see what birds are attracted to it. I guarantee you’ll be amazed.

Mateo Andrade

It is I, Mateo. I enjoy rainy days and fauna. They call me funny. May not be accurate.

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