Just like yesterday’s 86th Annual Academy Awards Ceremony, you’ll have to wait a sec for the announcement of who wins this Best Foreign Bird Award. This Oscar goes to the most beautiful bird in all the land.
I saw these individuals in the Chiriqui highlands in Costa Rica, about 50 miles south of San Jose, their capital.
At the end of a winding, bumpy one-lane dirt road, we spent several nights at the Savegre Hotel. We had ventured to Costa Rica on our own, pre-arranged for a few guides to show us around certain areas. One of our goals was to see this bird. We met our guide at dawn on our first morning there and piled all our stuff into his Range Rover.
As we started down the road, my partner asked, “What are the chances of seeing the…oh my God, I see one.” We were out of that car in seconds. In a tree beside the road, the bird was silently perched in a lower limb; and we lived our first moment in the company of the Resplendent Quetzal.
There. The envelope has been opened. Let’s hear his speech.
Ahem. The bird is unable to speak because, what’s that? He’s spitting out an avocado pit. Right onto the red carpet.
Shimmering in iridescence, his back was several shades of green and blue, and his long “tail” feathers were extended about 15 inches beyond the primary tail. With every camera out, we were frantically snapping and viewing, thrilled beyond belief. At first we just saw one pair, then we saw several pair. They were all in avocado trees, thoroughly enjoying one of their favorite meals.
We stayed there in that one spot for nearly an hour. It was a remote mountain valley deep in a nature preserve, but there were still eco-tourists like us who came here to find the glittery long-tailed Pharomachrus mocinno. When we had first pulled up, ours was the only vehicle. As the hour flew by, more and more people stopped until we had a serious traffic jam of numerous scattered Land Rovers, a tour van, and a pick-up truck filled with potatoes. All vehicles were abandoned, and dozens of birders, guides, photographers, drivers and even the potato farmer were under the tree gazing upward…all of us mesmerized.
Despite the mass of cars and people, it was silent when the last male flew away. That long, wispy tail elegantly trailing behind his dazzling blue-green back. To us it was an ephemeral experience, to him it was a search for more avocados.
And even though it is six years and many hundreds of bird species later, I still treasure that January 10th, and I still give him the Best Foreign Bird Award.