Soon I’ll write a lengthier story about the migratory birds arriving hereabouts, with a focus on our neighboring town of San Pancho, but meanwhile, here’s a little local bird lore. These are two birds my wife photographed from our upstairs deck; they’re in the trees in the schoolyard across the street. The redhead is a lineated woodpecker, called a carpenter bird by the local Mexican populace. These birds stay very busy doing what woodpeckers do, pecking holes in trees. Brilliant shade of red on the head, and we love the striped legs. Such style!
The other bird is commonly known as a chachalaca. People say if you say the word chachalaca fast and gutturally, it almost sounds like the sound they make. But that’s not quite right. When they get their squawk on, these birds sound like a couple of old biddies shrieking at each other over a fence, or like some mechanical device grinding away, short on lubrication; their vocals would be a perfect realistic sound track for the “angry birds” video game.
I had no idea what they were when I first moved here, and soon asked, since the ruckus they raised had us leaping out of bed at the crack of dawn several days a week. A friend whose husband’s grandfather was a town founder told me that in the old days, they used to hunt them, for food–and just to SHUT THEM UP!
Six chachalacas in a tree can make an amazing amount of noise. Like the howler monkeys farther south, who sound like King Kong but look, well, like your basic little monkeys, chachalacas talk the talk but don’t really walk the walk. They look benign enough, like miniature wild turkeys, although they do have a baleful glare. Still, as annoying as their racket can be, I’ve grown quite fond of it; should I ever leave Sayulita, the ratchety sound of the chachalacas is one of the many unusual, unexpected things I will surely miss.