Discover The National Bird of Nicaragua – AZ Animals


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Nicaragua is a country in Central America located about halfway between Mexico and South America. Just to the north is Guatemala and to the south is Costa Rica. Nicaragua has coastlines along both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The country’s interior is a mix of mountains and volcanoes, rainforests and the largest freshwater lake in Central America, Lake Nicaragua. You can imagine the diversity of wildlife in a country with a mix of habitats. The avifauna is also quite impressive, with iridescent hummingbirds, colorful keel-billed toucans and majestic harpy eagles.
So what bird did Nicaragua choose to represent its nation? Read on the discover the national bird of Nicaragua.
©Martin Pelanek/Shutterstock.com
The national bird of Nicaragua is the turquoise-browed motmot. In Nicaragua, the bird is called the Guardabarranco. These birds are some of the most beautiful in Central America, with a colorful mix of turquoise, greens, rust and black. The eyebrows of the birds are turquoise and match their tail feathers. If you see a turquoise-browed Motmot perched on a tree branch, one of the first things you might notice is the long sting-like tail feathers with a bright turquoise and black disc seemingly floating at the end. When the birds take flight, these tail feathers float behind them like streamers.
©iStock.com/FARUK BUDAK
Turquoise-browed motmots live in Central America, including Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. These tropical birds do not remain in the deep, dense rainforest but are usually out in the open and frequently seen near humans. They can be seen at the edge of forests, on the side of canyons and in nature reserves like the Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, which is southwest of the capital city of Managua. You can even find the national bird of Nicaragua in the capital city!
The turquoise-browed Motmot has a rich history in Central America. There are legends dating back to the early Mayans of the motmot being responsible for waking up the other birds at sunrise. The legend recalls that, unfortunately, one early morning, the Motmot forgot, and it was stripped of its tail feathers. Only two racket-shaped feathers were left as a reminder of its responsibility.
The word “Guardabarranco” means ravine-guard referring to the habit of these birds of making their nest in burrows along ravines or river banks. The birds represent freedom and the beauty of nature. The turquoise-browed Motmot is also the national bird of El Salvador, where they call it Torogoz.
©Tatohra/Shutterstock.com
No. The national bird is not on the flag, but the Coat of Arms is. The flag of Nicaragua has three equal horizontal stripes in blue-white-blue with the Coat of Arms in the center. The design of the Coat of Arms is very colorful, with a rainbow over five green volcanoes. The volcanoes represent the unity of the five countries of Central America. The rainbow represents liberty, and the triangle surrounding the image represents equality. Circling the triangle are the words “REPUBLICA DE NICARAGUA” and “AMERICA CENTRAL.”
Yes! The national bird is featured on the 2009 series of banknotes on the 200 córdoba bill (the córdoba is the money of Nicaragua). The turquoise-browed Motmot is on the back of the bill, along with Ometepe Island, the largest island in Lake Nicaragua. The new 200 córdoba features the El Güegüense comedy ballet on the back and the Rubén Darío National Theater on the front.
No, the turquoise-browed Motmot is not an endangered species. It is listed as an animal of “Least Concern” by the IUCN. It is found mostly in western Nicaragua, with a wide range along the coast of Central America and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. They were last evaluated in December 2019, and although the population trend was decreasing, there was insufficient concern about their numbers. The blue-crowned Motmot is another bird in Nicaragua that looks much like the turquoise-browed, and they also have healthy populations and are thus listed as “Least Concern.”
There are plenty of tropical birds that live in the rainforests of Nicaragua. More than a third of the country is covered in forest, some rainforest and other drier areas. There are many colorful macaws, parrots and parakeets. The classic scarlet macaw is mostly red with royal blue and yellow wings. Many parrots are bright green with different colorations around their head, like the blue-headed parrot and yellow-headed parrot. The parakeet species are mostly green as well but are smaller than parrots.
Other birds include the long-legged glossy ibis, great heron, snowy egret and spoonbills. Larger birds like osprey, Cooper’s hawk and harpy eagles. Along the coasts, you will find American white pelicans, brown pelicans, cormorants, gulls and anhingas (sometimes called snake birds due to their long snake-like necks).
Other animals that live in Nicaragua include wild cats like jaguars, pumas, ocelots and margays. The rainforest houses howler monkeys, White-faced Capuchin and the endangered Geoffroy’s spider monkey. You will find American crocodiles in the San Juan River between Lake Nicaragua and Lake Managua.
Lake Nicaragua is a very interesting ecosystem because it is a freshwater lake that supports saltwater animals. Did you know bull sharks live in Lake Nicaragua? Lake Nicaragua is close to the Pacific Ocean, so scientists once thought that the sharks were left over when no land mass separated the lake from the ocean. But now it is believed that sharks can enter the San Juan River from the ocean. Other saltwater species include swordfish and tarpon (which can be 8 feet long!).
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.
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