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 sing every hour on the hour, a fact regularly pointed out to us while in the field. The Qechi of Belize had precisely the same tradition, for which it is equally famous.



The makway, which seems to be the Yellow-billed Cacique (Amblycercus holosericeus), sings consistently at different times of the day. Therefore, it is said to be like a clock for the Ch‘ol. It sings in the morning, right at noon, and then in the late afternoon around 3:00 p.m. Starting at 3:00, it sings on the hour every hour until nightfall. This is how they know it is time to go home from their work in the field.

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Hull, K. & Fergus, R. AN ETHNOORNITHOLOGICAL APPROACH TO HUMAN-BIRD RELATIONS AMONG THE MOPAN MAYA OF BELIZE. 2009.


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