Doña Maria’s Last Wish

By Emily O’Connor

MONTEVERDE CLOUD FOREST RESERVE, Costa Rica — Doña Maria’s last wish was to see a Resplendent Quetzal in Costa Rica.

The old Guatemalan woman traveled to see her country’s national bird and the namesake of its currency.

About 1,000 of the red and green birds live in the forest, which is a comparatively low number, said Esteban Mendez Vargas, a naturalist guide at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

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Quetzal viewed through a spotting scope in the Reserve.

Male quetzals are known for their long, green feathers stemming from their rumps, which attract female quetzals.

Mendez said these feathers are treasured, especially when kept intact.

Quetzals reside in tall, wild avocado trees.  They eat whole olive-sized avocados and regurgitate the pits.

As her trip ended after days spent looking for a quetzal with Mendez, the old woman told him she needed to return to the forest one last moment because she felt God was telling her the bird would be there, Mendez said.

After one hour in the forest, Mendez and Doña Maria saw a quetzal, which landed unusually close to them.

“It was one of the most beautiful quetzals I had ever seen,” said Mendez.

Doña Maria died two weeks later after returning to her native Guatemala.

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