Officially, the Harpy Eagle, the largest raptor in the Western Hemisphere, is the national bird of the Republic of Panama.
I’ve written previously about some of the birds I’ve become acquainted with here and regular readers have seen my videos of the Rufus-tailed hummingbird that lives in the garden of the Potrerillos Arriba house and the screeching flocks of parrots that are everywhere in the highlands. But anyone who has spent any time outside of Panama City soon becomes aware of the fact that the real national bird of the Republic is not the majestic eagle but the common, every day chicken.
Chickens are everywhere. You can even buy your future suppers at the bus terminal.
I have to say, here, that much has been written about the “chicken” buses of Central and South America but I’ve yet to encounter one here in Panama. Once on the ride up to Potrerillos there was an Indian lady with a small box with some young chicks she probably bought at the terminal but that’s the only time I’ve ever been on a bus with chickens here and it hardly counts. On the other hand, a couple of years ago in the central province town of Santiago I did run across this lad waiting for a ride home.
Taking my morning coffee on the porch of the house on the side of the mountain the crowing of roosters could be heard from every point of the compass. Here on my short street in Boquerón there are at least a half dozen flocks of chickens roaming unmolested throughout the daylight hours and there is seldom a time when a rooster isn’t announcing his presence. On the half-mile walk to the Info Plaza it seems there’s a small flock at every other house.
At the first house on the right leaving my yard the owner is serious about raising gamecocks. He has 30 of them and every day they are released from their cages and staked out on the front lawn to catch some fresh air.
It would be a tossup as to whether baseball or cockfighting is more popular in Panama since I’ve noticed that many homes have a small coop in the back yard with one or two gamecocks. Along the Interamerican Highway between Boquerón and David I know of three “Jardins” that have “Coliseo Gallistico” pits attached and there are at least two on the road from Potrerillos to David. There’s a good-sized baseball stadium in David complete with lights for night games and both Dolega and Boquerón have their own baseball fields though these are just for day games for both Little League and adults.
My paternal grandfather used to raise and fight gamecocks and in the future I will be submitting future posts about my neighbor and his birds.
My neighbor to the left of my house has a couple of flocks of chickens that roam freely about the area. Several of them are the tailless Aracuana breed lead by this handsome fellow:
It’s noisy around here with the crowing of cocks throughout the daylight hours but surprisingly enough I don’t find it annoying at all.
2 responses to “Panama’s National Bird”
Even though I live in a suburban area, I can still listen to rooster crow during the early hours of the morning before daybreak. They belong to our neighbors of Los Andes No. 2. The only birds that I do see physically, are the cooked ones my wife puts on the table now and then.
I’m sure there are people with chickens in the city but they are ubiquitous here in the country.
I was just thrilled to see this post, especially that last photo. I’ve really enjoyed learning about the early use of birds as decoration on porcelain. One of the early illustrators of poultry, Edgar Megargee, showed birds like that fine fellow, and I’ve never seen one in real life. It’s funny – I think a rooster crowing’s one of the most pleasant sounds in the world, yet I know people it drives right up the wall.
As for the cockfighting, it’s rampant in Texas, even though illegal. There are plenty of folks around from Mexico and point south who carry on the tradition. I’ll look forward to your posts, though I’m a little queasy about the practice.
From what I’ve seen of cockfighting through YouTube vids it really doesn’t seem all that great to me. But it is a part of my heritage through my paternal grandfather more of which I will reveal later on.