Birds aren’t real – The Black-tailed Trogon

I recently found out that on this planet of ours there exist people, actual living, walking, breathing people, who claim that birds are robotic drones used by the governments around the world for the purpose of espionage. Those are most likely the same individuals who believe that Australia doesn’t exist.


Now, let’s distance ourselves from reality for just a moment and consider this ridiculous conspiracy theory to be remotely possible. In that case, I think I can guess the perfect candidate that gave birth to such a ludicrous idea: the Trogons. And who better than the Black-tailed Trogon (Trogon melanurus) who has perfected the peculiar habit of turning and tilting its head very slowly as it peers about while quietly perched.

Black-tailed Trogon (Trogon melanurus)

Mainly a species of the Amazonian lowlands (two other disjunct populations exist from central Panama to northern Colombia and in western Ecuador and northwestern Peru) they are heard more often than seen as they tend to remain well above the ground, favoring the forest canopy to subcanopy. If you really want to get good views of one though (they are very rarely seen in higher numbers at one place) then the best thing to do obviously is to climb a canopy tower. Which is exactly what I did. As the bird likes to sit motionless for long periods on a stout limb, often well in from the outer foliage and near to the main trunk, canopy towers are the perfect place for close views as they hug the main trunk of the tree so the stoutest of the branches are close at hand.

Sani lodge canopy tower, Ecuador

On the way to to the top I got fantastic views of birds and other wildlife because they were at eye level. It was so easy, no neck straining! When I finally reached the top a whole new world opened. Birds were basically everywhere around me. Macaws and other parrots were circling; new world warblers, honeycreepers, attilas were flitting here and there; the branches were covered with woodcreepers and an occasional woodpecker was to be seen; cotingas, aracaris and barbets were numerous on neighbouring trees. Among the myriad of birds was a single Black-tailed Trogon, not ten meters away from me adopting the typical very upright stance. It perched completely still, like a statue. At times it just looked so fake. It’s amusing to think we simultaneously took photos of each other, it probably with a hidden spy camera for an eye. Ridiculous. Then at some point it started to slowly roll its head from side to side and to peer upward. Then it abruptly sallied forth to capture an insect probably from amidst the foliage before continuing on to another perch. In the end it flew off, probably back to HQ to give away our position. 

View from the tower

There you have it. Avian spy drones are real and they charge on power lines. Please don’t hesitate to give examples in the comments of other interesting birds that come to your mind whose behaviour fits the picture of a government surveillance drone.

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