The Birds of My Barrio

Some days the neighbors just won't keep quiet. Even with the windows of my office firmly shut, I unintentionally eavesdrop on them crooning love songs to each other or bickering back and forth. Sometimes I hear them squabbling over lunch or the best spot to observe the comings and goings of the barrio. In spite of it all, we generally get along fairly well, although Daniel does get a bit cross when they unabashedly steal the biggest and best cherries from our tree.

Let's meet the neighbors, shall we?

Tero (Vanellus chilensis) by Edwin E. Harvey on Flickr [used under Creative Commons license] [Tero // Southern Lapwing]

In the late afternoon, when they're often seen flying overhead together in small groups of five or six, the sunlight makes the teros' white underwings glow in shades of gold and orange. On terra firma, the teros often move together in pairs. These large birds are quite territorial and quick to scold you if you get too close, especially when they're guarding their nests, which they build on the ground. The tero's name comes from the sound of its call. Take a listen.

Benteveo (Pitangus sulphuratus) by Edwin E. Harvey on Flickr [used under Creative Commons license] [Benteveo or Bichofeo // Great Kiskadee ]

The noisy benteveo delights in surveying its surroundings from the tallest point in the neighborhood. In summertime, it frequently swoops down from its perch high atop the weeping willow in the neighbor's yard, announces its presence with its characteristic cry, and makes off with a ripe, juicy cherry. The sound of the benteveo's distinctive call gave rise to one of its many names. It seems the Argentines can't quite agree on what the bird is saying, and as a result, it also bears the name bichofeo, pitogüé, quetupí and quechupay, among others. What do you think it's saying?

Cotorra (Myiopsitta monachus) by femuruy on Flickr [used under Creative Commons license] [Cotorra argentina // Monk Parakeet]

The cotorra, a species of parrot, is considered a major agricultural pest (albeit a cute one). They build large communal stick nests in palms and eucalyptus trees, and when you get enough of these guys together, they sound like a jungle full of screeching monkeys. When they're constructing their giant nests in the trees, you can see them constantly flying around with little twigs and branches in their beaks. Though native to Argentina, the noisy cotorra has been introduced to a number of other countries including the U.S., Spain and even Japan.

Ratona Común (Troglodytes aedon) by Edwin E. Harvey on Flickr [used under Creative Commons license] [Ratona común or ratonera // Southern House Wren]

Providing endless entertainment for my cats and for me as we watch them deftly annihilate the local mosquito and fly population, the ratoneras feel very comfortable living around humans (and maybe too comfortable around cats!). In fact, they build nests in our garage every summer, and it's fun to watch the baby birds learn how to fly as they tentatively flap their wings and hop from rafter to rafter. The acrobatic ratoneras zip around the garden like lightning, and they scale the brick wall with ease, poking their tiny beaks in every crevice in search of bugs. It's not particularly pretty nor does it possess a melodious song, but I find the diminutive ratonera endearing nonetheless.

Chingolo (Zonotrichia capensis) by Edwin E. Harvey on Flickr [used under Creative Commons license] [Chingolo // Rufous-collared Sparrow]

These little guys flit back and forth constantly in the yard alongside their cousins, the house sparrows. With its tiny tuft and brownish-red collar, the chingolo is easily distinguishable from the house sparrow. Showing little fear of humans, chingolos hunt for seeds and insects and go about their business just a few feet away from our home. According to folklore, a chingolo that hops around the patio chirping insistently foretells the arrival of visitors.

Calandria Grande (Mimus saturninus) by Edwin E. Harvey on Flickr [used under Creative Commons license] [Calandria // Chalk-browed Mockingbird]

I often see the calandrias in pairs, and in summer, they come looking to pluck a tasty snack from our cherry tree or the grape arbor. Their tails often bob up and down as they walk along the high brick wall in the garden. Calandrias sing beautifully and are capable of imitating the songs of many other types of birds (hence their name in English – mockingbird). In fact, if you want to offer up praise for someone's singing abilities in Spanish, it's appropriate to say that she sings like a calandria.

Picaflor Común Hembra (Chlorostilbon aureoventris) by Edwin E. Harvey on Flickr [used under Creative Commons license] [Colibrí or picaflor común // Glittering-bellied Emerald]

The colibries in our neighborhood adore the fragrant, white flowers of our lemon tree, and in summertime I often catch them zooming around the garden. I actually saw one of these stunning hummingbirds at rest for the first time just a couple of months ago; it landed on the clothesline two or three times before jetting off for good. The colibrí shown in the photo is a female, who sports a more subdued coloration; however, the male's entire plumage shimmers in a mesmerizing shade of green, hence the English name Glittering-bellied Emerald.

Torcazas or eared doves, relatives of the mourning dove, and gorriones (house sparrows) round out the neighborhood crew that I spot from my window on a daily basis, but if I head to the beach, out into the country or down by the river, there's a whole other group of neighbors waiting to greet me.


For more information on the birds of Argentina, check out:

Photos of Birds of Argentina [English and Spanish]
Mis Aves [English, Spanish, and French]
Birds of the Pampas [English and Spanish]

Note: There are songs/calls for each of the birds, embedded within this post. Please visit the post to listen to them if viewing in a feed reader or by email subscription.

[Photo credits: Edwin E. Harvey, femuruy]

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