Birds of Peru—so many species, so many eco systems. This little tyke was swimming with its mom on Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake.
The Uros people construct and live on Floating Islands of the lake, and might’ve taken their cue from the birds.
The Uros domesticated the Ibis for its eggs–they live side by side.
In the Amazon jungle, villagers living along tributaries of the Amazon River raise chickens for eggs and meat.
Other birds, like Manolo the Mealy Parrot, are kept for pets….
…and watchbirds. (Don’t even think of touching his bread.)
They wander in and out of the houses like family.
We also saw a huge variety of birds living wild in the jungle, such as the Tiger Heron.
I believe this is a Social Flycatcher. Maybe it just eats flies at parties?
Some birds I caught only a glimpse of on the fly.
Others looked familiar, like this Pygmy Owl.
Or this Kingfisher. The Kingfishers fly so fast I could only get an image at night, when it was roosting.
Or this White-winged Swallow, which was different but similar to our swallows.
Most of the birds’ names I never knew or have forgotten, but they were fascinating.
This one looked like a lone hunter…
…while the vultures tended to hang in a crowd.
If we have birds in the U.S. that come out at night and sit on the beach looking like, well, a beach, I haven’t heard of them.
A Black-fronted Nunbird? The coloring is right, but the beak is smaller and it’s so fluffy. Maybe a chick? Oh, well, a bird by any name would sing as sweet.
The birds in the Peruvian Andes were different than the ones we saw in the Amazon.
I saw this feathered friend at Machu Picchu.
This one too. It’s not so different from the hummingbirds that sip nectar from the hanging baskets on my deck.
But some are very different from the birds we have at home–like the Toucan who was natural history before I could get to my camera, or the Night Heron whose portrait came out fuzzy. Most unique was the Huatzin, a pheasant-sized bird resembling something out of prehistoric times. Its face is blue and unfeathered, its crest large and spiky. It makes its home in the swamps and marshy lakes in the jungle.
A crop is an enlarged pouch of the esophagus, where food is stored before it is digested. Some birds have them, and some dinosaurs did too. But the Huaztin’s crop is so large it makes flying difficult. It uses its crop to digest food using bacterial fermentation, which makes them smell very bad. The Amazon people call them ‘Stinkbirds’ and won’t eat them. They croak, hiss, groan, and grunt. Huatzin young have claws on their wings. When pursued by hawks or arboreal predators, they drop from their nest into the water and claw their way back up the tree when it is safe. Strange and fascinating!
I don’t see anything common about a bird, even the ones found in my own backyard. Descended from dinosaurs, these feathered creatures are miraculous to me–so varied, so delicate, so powerful, most possessed of the gift of song and the superpower of flight. All I need is a pair of binoculars and a camera, and I am off on a flight of fancy.
All images and words copyright 2013 Naomi Baltuck