Tag Archive: Central America

May 28 2013

The Yellow-billed Cacique marks the time

Until recently when many Mopan began using wristwatches, birds played a crucial role in marking time. Even today when watches are more commonly seen, many birds are still a valued resource for knowing the time of day. For example, the Yellow-billed Casique (Amblycercus holosericeus) (known as otz, otz otz, or ootz ootz) is said to …

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May 28 2013

How Hummingbird won the hearts of the villagers

Not far from Rainbow Cave on the Sacred Mountain in what is now New Mexico, Hummingbird Hoya lived with his beloved grandmother long ago. “I think I will go to Kiakima to see what their clansmen are doing,” Hoya said one day to his beloved grandmother. Because he was so small and wanted to be …

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May 06 2013

Bird stories, Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao)

In the religion of the Mayas of Yucatan the great god of light was Itsamna, one of whose titles was The Lord, the Eye of the Day, a truly picturesque description of the sun. A temple at Itzmal was consecrated to him under the double name Eye of Day-Bird of Fire. In time of pestilence, …

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May 05 2013

Bird stories, Clay-colored Robin (Turdus grayi)

The song of the k’ok’ota’, or Clay-colored Robin (Turdus grayi) when heard in the morning is a sign that the milpa (corn field) is flowering. However, if it is sitting in a tree when it sings, it means rain is forthcoming. The Q’eqchi’ of Belize have a similar tradition for the Clay-colored Robin, or k’ook’ob, …

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May 05 2013

Bird stories, the Plain and Black Chachalaca

In Mopan Maya folklore the call of the Black Chachalaca (Penelopina nigra) is said to indicate it will rain soon. In the Mayan writings, there frequently occur representations of a bird that was evidently used for sacrificial purposes. It is shown with erectile head feathers and a ring of circular marks about the eye,it probably …

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May 05 2013

Bird stories, Black-cheeked Woodpecker and Golden-olive Woodpecker

The Black-cheeked Woodpecker (Melanerpes pucherani) and Golden-olive Woodpecker (Colaptes rubiginosus) are called the tze’rej, a term that applies to a number of bigger woodpeckers. when these species cry “wek wek,” it is a a bad omen that something bad will soon happen, according to the Mopan Maya of Belize. Hull, K. & Fergus, R. AN …

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May 05 2013

Bird stories, Pale-billed Woodpecker and Smoky Brown-woodpecker

When the pich, the Smoky Brown Woodpecker (Veniliornis fumigatus), cries thee times in a row, it is a sign that something bad is going to happen. While a home visitation is considered something of considerable joy for the Mopan and quite anticipated, the one exception is the visit of a salesperson. In fact, the Mopan …

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May 04 2013

Bird stories, Boat-tailed Grackle and Brown Jay

The call of the Boat-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus major) is said to indicate it will rain soon. The Mopan claim that the often seen pa’ap, or Brown Jay (Cyanocorax morio) can be useful for hunters since it cries out when it sees a game animal; however, it if cries too loudly, it can scare the game …

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May 04 2013

Bird stories, Blue-black Grassquit and Blue-crowned Motmot

The Ch‘ol Maya believe the pich, identified by informants as variously the Melodious Blackbird (Dives dives) or Blue-black Grassquit (Volatinia jacarina), are said to sing to signal to a traveler that someone is ahead on the road. Hull, K. & Fergus, R. AN ETHNOORNITHOLOGICAL APPROACH TO HUMAN-BIRD RELATIONS AMONG THE MOPAN MAYA OF BELIZE. 2009. …

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May 02 2013

Bird stories, Barn Owl (Tyto alba)

The Barn Owl (Tyto alba) known as xoch’, which is described as a nocturnal bird, white, size of buzzard or heron, the animal counterpart of witches, sign of death. The Jews believe that their cry causes the death of young children; so, in order to prevent this, they pour a vessel of water out into …

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