My recent and first trip to Costa Rica was full of unforgettable experiences. The wildlife diversity of the country is astounding. In fact, National Geographic recently labeled the Corcovado National Park the "the most biologically intense place on earth". Naturally, being a first time visitor, I wanted to see as much as I could in the time I had, but there was one species in particular that had captured my imagination, the Quetzal. The male Quetzal, with its green crest, blood red chest, and 3 foot long iridescent tail feathers, looks as if it were a mythical creature. So the prominent role the bird plays in ancient Mayan and Aztec lore is not surprising.
According to Mayan legend, a Quetzal was present when the Spanish conquistador, Pedro de Alvarado, killed Tecún Umán, the Mayan hero and warrior. Following the battle, the Quetzal descended and landed upon the dead body of the fallen hero, and his blood stained the bird's chest red. It is said the Quetzal possesses the most beautiful song of any bird in the world, but it quit singing after the Spanish conquest.