The COLMENAR Research Group and the Canaveral Birdwatching Club in collaboration with the local birdwatching society, Sociedad Caldense de Ornitologia (The Society of Ornithology of Caldas), carried out several community projects in the municipalities of Marquetalia and Victoria in the eastern part of Caldas, a department of Colombia. The goal of this joint effort is to create cultural, environmental, and social identity in the community through local bird identification and conservation practices.
Villa del Sol is located in Marquetalia in the eastern region of the department of Caldas, in the central mountain range of the Colombian Andes. In this region the striped cuckoo (Tapera naevia), known for its far-reaching and ominous song, is intertwined with the local folklore creating a whole series of mythical expressions full of humor, joy, and mystery. In Colombian popular culture the striped cuckoo, often called “the bird of death,” is usually associated with bad omens due to the fear generated by its song. The striped cuckoo is actually very shy and while most people know its unmistakable song very few people have actually seen the bird.
It seemed that during the COVID-19 pandemic, Villa del Sol was filled by constant singing of the striped cuckoo, also know as “Tres Pies.” The deaths registered by the Colombian Department of Health were a real concern to everyone. Many people mistakenly related this tragedy with the song of the Tres Pies. As an alternative to confinement and to help reduce anxiety, stress, depression, and domestic violence, the COLMENAR Research Group, and the Canaveral Birdwatching Club got down to business. The local teachers and collaborators implemented a strategy to motivate the Victoria and Marquetalia community to participate as a family in Global Big Day 2020 from the safety of their homes.
The participants observed and recognized the beautiful birds they have as neighbors all year round from their homes. In a virtual workshop about eBird and the Merlin Bird ID mobile applications participants learned how to share information and learn about birds. These applications helped participants to register their observations and to identify better the beautiful and intriguing birds in their community – a real success!
The SCO (Sociedad Caldense de Ornitología) even offered a video tutorial explaining birdwatching and the importance of Global Big Day 2020. The non-profit organization shared user-friendly formats for new birders, including those who were in rural areas or did not have access to technology. This was a great way to encourage many different people to participate!
The participants included students from elementary and secondary schools and the Complementary Training Program. Teachers, directors, advisors from the Ondas de Colciencias program (Columbian department of Science and Technology Youth Outreach Program) and SENA-Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje (National Learning Service), environmental groups, and young researchers from the SCO participated and helped to spread the word and engage their community.
The observations were uploaded to the eBird platform and several were complemented with photographs and audio recordings which were added to the Macaulay Library. There was also a family photography contest offering one pair of binoculars and a Miles McMullan’s field guide of the birds of the Colombian Andes as a prize. Anyone could submit photographs of their families birdwatching from home during Global Big Day 2020 and use eBird or the suggested formats to collect the bird observations during the deadlines set for this global event. The enthusiastic participation in the community was fantastic!
It was exciting to see all the bird photos taken by the families from their homes. The activities brought the families together in an exercise of community science. These bird-watching activities also helped to demystify negative ideas about the birds, especially the Tres Pies, a beautiful bird, which is often heard but rarely seen. The community was able to see its striped back and homogeneous beige breast, and to observe the Tres Pies perching, singing, extending, and gathering up its black crest. According to the Tupi Guarani language, spoken by the region’s indigenous communities, its name “Tapera” means the voice of departure. In this case, it is not a sign of death but rather a departure from the traditional fear of the Tres Pies and welcoming of a new interest in discovering the community’s feathered treasures.
Page was written by Ashley Calderon and Julia Luna