Quetzal–an ancient symbol of Liberty

The Quetzal was the nahual (spirit guide)  of Tecún Umán (1500-1524), a warrior who was the last ruler of the Quiche Mayan people (in the highlands of Guatemala) during the latter stages of the Spanish conquest of the region.  Legend has it that when Tecún Umán was slain by conquistador Pedro de Alvarado, the quetzal flew down and landed on Umán, dipping its chest in the warrior prince’s blood.  It is there that the bird acquired its distinctive red chest feathers. (from www.3833.com)

“The name quetzal is an ancient Mayan term for tail feather, and the bird itself represents liberty. Ancient people believed the Quetzal would not survive in captivity, it would rather die than be held prisoner. So rather than killing these birds for their feathers, the Maya would pluck them and set the birds free to grow new feathers. Unfortunately this has since proved false and Quetzals can be viewed in zoos throughout the world.” (From wildernessclassroom.com)

To hear the song of this bird, click on  http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/quetzal/ and choose the “Audio” link

From National Geographic.com:

“The resplendent quetzal is an aptly named bird that many consider among the world’s most beautiful. These vibrantly colored animals live in the mountainous, tropical forests of Central America where they eat fruit, insects, lizards, and other small creatures….”

“Unfortunately, these striking birds are threatened in Guatemala and elsewhere throughout their range. They are sometimes trapped for captivity or killed, but their primary threat is the disappearance of their tropical forest homes. In some areas, most notably Costa Rica’s cloud forests, protected lands preserve habitat for the birds and provide opportunities for ecotourists and eager bird watchers from around the globe.

Such admirers continue a long history of adoration for the quetzal. The bird was sacred to the ancient Maya and Aztec peoples, and royalty and priests wore its feathers during ceremonies.”

Other facts:

– The quetzal is Guatemala’s national bird; it’s on the flag, coat of arms, and currency, which is named a “quetzal.”

– The quetzal eats wild avocado, and has a symbiotic relationship with the avocado (being the primary animal to distribute its seeds).

– The quetzal is the equivalent to the N. American bald eagle as a symbol of liberty in South America.

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