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(506) 223-1327       Published Thursday, Dec. 28, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 257             E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Nation's famous quetzal can be found in many places
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The resplendent quetzal is one of Costa Rica’s most spectacular birds, an attraction of itself for the nature-loving tourist. Monteverde built much of its reputation on the quetzal, but the bird can be seen at a variety of high-elevation sites the length of Costa Rica.

Quetzals (Pharomachrus mocinno) are part of the trogon family, found in the tropics worldwide. This species occurs from Chiapas in Mexico to western Panama. There are four more species of Pharomachrus in South America, but none has the long tail plumes that gave the resplendent quetzal god-like status for the Aztec and Maya cultures.

As Alexander Skutch, a long-time student of Costa Rica birds wrote in 1944: "The head and upper plumage are an intense and glittering green, the lower breast, belly, and under tail coverts are of the richest crimson. The bill is bright yellow . . . the glittering eye is black and the two median and longest of the covert tail feathers are golden-green with blue and violet iridescence." Females are duller and lack the long tail.

The green of the quetzal’s plumage is iridescence, not color. At 10,000 times magnification, the feather is brown. Small packets of melanin spaced apart 5,400 angstroms (just .00002 of an inch) interfere and reflect only the green parts of the spectrum. Many hummingbird plumages work the same way.

Despite the bright coloration, the birds can be very inconspicuous when perched, which is how they spend most of their time. If aware of the intruder, they will often sit with the bright red belly facing away.

The best way to find them is when a tree of the preferred species is fruiting. Quetzals get much of their food from large-seeded Lauraceous trees referred to as wild avocados. They also eat large insects and small vertebrates like lizards and frogs. Food is grabbed with a quick hovering dash.

The birds dig nests in rotten trees, sometimes enlarging a woodpecker cavity but just as often excavating the hole themselves. Both sexes participate in the nest-building, incubation, and feeding of the young. Two eggs is the normal clutch. In Costa Rica the nesting season is mostly March through June. The availability of suitable trees is one of the major limiting factors of population density in good habitat.

Quetzal is a Nahuatl word, from the Aztec language still spoken by more than a million people in México. The bird was closely linked to the god

The quetzal is home with just a feather exposed

A.M. Costa Rica photos/Dennis Rogers
The spectacular resplendent quetzal

Quetzalcoatl, the “Feathered Serpent” who was the primary deity of most Pre-Colombian Meso- American  cultures, including the Aztecs, Toltecs, and Maya. Quetzalcoatl is represented in murals at Teotihuacán as early as 150 BC. The quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala, appearing on the flag. The Guatemalan currency is also called the Quetzal.

In Costa Rica, the quetzal is found in the mountains from the Cordillera de Tilarán south to Panama. Generally it occurs from 1,500 meters upward, nearly to treeline at 3,000 meters or more on the central volcanoes and the Cordillera de Talamanca.

Much of the remaining habitat is protected in a variety of reserves and national parks, including the large Parque Internacional la Amistad in the Talamancas of south Costa Rica and Panamá.

Additionally, they can persist in partially deforested areas if fruiting trees and trees for nesting remain, so the conservation status in Costa Rica is not particularly a cause for concern. Northern populations are under more pressure from habitat loss.

The best place to see a quetzal in Costa Rica is the Dota region on the Cerro de la Muerte. The road to Providencia, about two hours from San José towards San Isidro de Pérez Zeledón, drops down through beautiful oak forest that is prime habitat. When it breaks into an open, deforested area, the birds are sometimes in the trees just below the road.

In the next valley, there are hotels and restaurants in San Gerardo. A steep road from the highway eventually reaches the valley, crossing over a small bridge. Depending on the status of the fruiting trees there, quetzals are often present in the trees on the left, but can be very hard to see. Further along near the lodges, the habitat is more open and the birds easier to see when present. A public trail just past the biggest lodge requires crossing the small river on a precarious log bridge, but leads to nice habitat.

Several small hotels along the Panamerican highway south of Cartago have quetzals nearby, are closer to San Jose, and can be reached by bus.

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Costa Rica
Second newspage

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 257        

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A.M. Costa Rica/Manuel Ramírez Corrales
Body of unlucky motorist awaits investigation

Motorcyclist avoids hitting
dog, but loses control and dies

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 27-year-old man Wednesday night became another motorist who will not see the new year.

The man, identified as Marco Francisco Sanabria Alvarado, was on his motorcycle about 11:15 p.m. when a dog entered his lane on the Circumvalación in San Sebastián in south San José. The motorist tried to avoid hitting the dog, lost control and flew about 100 feet through the air, said witnesses.

He was dead when rescue workers arrived.

Meanwhile, tránsito officers and even the Fuerza Pública have begun an effort to cut down on holiday deaths.

Since Tuesday police have pulled 45 vehicles off the highway for failing to have various permits. They also have detained a number of undocumented foreigners.

The  Fuerza Pública and the Policía de Tránsito started setting up at least eight checkpoints around the country Wednesday night. The roving checkpoints will be in operation until Jan. 6, officials said.

Police are on the lookout for persons driving under the influence. They detained nearly a dozen drivers who were participants or spectators of the Tuesday tope or horse parade. Now police are buckling down for the New Year's holiday. they also have to cope with the heavy traffic from the beaches and other tourist points Monday as Central Valley residents return home.

Weather expected to warm
slowly and winds diminish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's weather experts say a change for the better is in the works.

The nation has experienced a front that created cold conditions for Costa Ricans. But the effect of this front is expected to diminish today as will the velocity of the winds, said the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

Overnight minimum temperatures, which have been as low as 15 to 17 C. (about 59 to 63 F.) in the Central Valley are expected to climb slowly to normal seasonal levels.

The bad news is that the cold front brought heavy rain to some sections of Costa Rica. The weather institute issued a warning for residents to be on the alert for flooding and landslides.

Some areas in the northern zone received heavy rain.

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Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and three other newspages. Sometimes there will be four additional newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


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Costa Rica
third newspage

Real estate
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 257  

Cuba unleashes a broadside of criticism against Oscar Arias
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Óscar Arias Sánchez has emerged as the man the Cuban leadership loves to hate.

In the latest volley, the Cuban state-run daily Granma criticized Arias for comparing President Fidel Castro to late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. In an interview last week, Arias said the two leaders had different ideologies, but both were "savage, brutal and bloody," according to news agencies.

Granma said Arias is a "vulgar mercenary" who supports U.S. plans to annex the Communist island nation. The Cuban ministry said the declarations against the country are not the first and will not be the last. It also berated Arias for being critical of some of the new leftist governments that have been elected in the Western Hemisphere.

The ministry said Arias called some of the leaders irresponsible, demagogues and charlatans who play with the aspirations of the people.

Cuba has long been at odds with Arias because he supports the Central American free trade treaty with the United States. Much of what the Cubans have said seem to have been instigated by Costa Ricans who oppose Arias and the trade treaty.

In the statement that smacks of conspiracy theories the ministry outlined what it considered proof of complicity by Arias with the United States:

March 11: President George Bush congratulated Arias for
being elected and said that Arias can help the United States with the new panorama in Latin America.

Aug. 28: Arias published an article "La Hora de la Democracia en Cuba" that duplicated statements made five days previous by Thomas Shannon, U.S. undersecretary of State for the Western Hemisphere.

Sept. 23 Arias met with John Maisto, U.S. ambassador at the Organization of American States to finalize an anti-Cuban agenda to be delivered at the Iberoamerican summit in Montevideo, although Arias eventually did not dare to deliver it.

Dec. 6: Arias talked about the case of Cuba with President Bush in the White House and then expressed his desire to see democracy restored to the island after 47 years.

Arias does not have the moral character to criticize Cuba because he used his influence to modify the Costa Rican Constitution so he could be reelected president, said the Cuban statement. And he only was elected with 25 percent of the popular vote, it said. Arias is a vain and mediocre person who should not be taken seriously, the statement said.

There was no immediate reaction to the statement here, although in the past Arias has usually let the foreign ministry here reply.

Arias, a winner of the Nobel Prize for helping to restore peace in Central American in the 1980s, has an international reputation, which may be why the Cubans were stung so much by his comments.

Suspect caught in stickup of microbus containing tourists
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tourists in another microbus have been held up by a gunman, but this time police officers caught a suspect.

The details are unclear, but the the incident happened Monday on a bridge over the Río Pacuare near Siquirres, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

A man with a gun commandeered a microbus containing tourists. He held them at gunpoint and took their valuables, said the ministry. The suspect has the last names of Williams Arroyo, said officers. The manner in which he was detained is unclear, too, but officers said they recovered a bag containing possessions of the tourists and a .22-caliber revolver.

Industry employees have been complaining for months
about holdups involving microbuses containing tourists. Some of the stickups happened near San José on the
Autopista General Cañas. Industry sources said there were at least 12 such holdups, including one where a German tourist was pistol-whipped.

Typically gunmen in a car cut off a bus on a highway or an exit ramp.

Jorge Rojas, director of the Judicial Investigating Organization, said that his agency had reports on six such incidents and denied suggestions that investigators hushed up the cases to avoid hurting tourism.

Meanwhile at least 70 scheduled public buses have been the target of bandits, including one case Dec. 19 where a 22-year-old Pavas woman was shot in the head and killed by a gunman near Multiplaza Mall in Escazú.

New tourism police units take to the field at key points
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The new tourism police have made their debut at points around the country. They are distinctive in their blue pants, white shirts and insignias of the Fuerza Pública and the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

The tourism units are in the Plaza de la Cultura, certain bus stops and the Coca Cola terminal in San José as well as tourist points in Puntarenas, Alajuela, San Carlos, Guanacaste, and Limón, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

In all 122 officers, already Fuerza Pública members,
adopted the new responsibilities last week.

Each unit of the Policía Turística have two officers designated to keep track of criminal trends in their areas and provide this information to the Judicial Investigating Organization, embassies and statistical units of law enforcement, the ministry said.

The officers are traveling on motorcycles and bikes. Most have some abilities in English.

Among other duties the offices distribute pamphlets to tourists telling them how to protect themselves and their belongings.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

A.M. Costa Rica
fourth news page

Real estate
About us
San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 257        

Secret Service agents went bonkers over all those rifles
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

U.S. presidents take some terrific chances and go to some dangerous places, but Gerald Ford really had the U.S. Secret Service in a sweat when he ventured into rural Colorado in 1974.

Ford, who died Tuesday, survived two assassination attempts in 1975. But the year before he planned a campaign stop in Grand Junction, Colorado, with U.S. Sen. Peter H. Dominick, who was seeking reelection.

As is routine, the Secret Service, which has the job of protecting the president, sent an advance team to scope out the town. The time happened to be deer season.

"Every pickup has a high-powered rifle with a scope hanging in the rear window," an agent was heard telling superiors in Washington from his hotel phone. Soon more agents flooded into the city.

These were simpler days when hunting was universally lauded and no one would dare steal a man's rifle from his pickup rack. This laid-back attitude was lost on the Secret Service. They set up a security plan as if the president was going into Beirut. And agents were tense the whole time Ford was on public display at a local baseball stadium.

The attitude of the townspeople was "Who would want to kill Gerald Ford?"

They got their answer a year later when Lynette Fromme, a follower of Charles Manson who was known as "Squeaky," tried to plug him with a .45-caliber bullet when he visited Sacramento, California. Agents jumped her and later found she failed to load the pistol properly.

A little more than two weeks later in San Francisco, California, a woman identified as Sara Jane Moore actually got a shot off but a former Marine standing nearby reacted at the sight of the weapon and pushed her gun arm into the air.

But that was California. Ford retreated for his vacations to Colorado and stayed at a borrowed home in the ski town of Beaver Creek near Vail. Ford's Air Force One landed at the Grand Junction airport each time and,

White House photo
The portrait of former President Gerald R. Ford is draped with a black cloth in the Cross Hall of the White House Wednesday. The portrait was painted by artist Everett Raymond Kinstler in 1977.

depending on the weather, he took a limo or a Marine helicopter into the Colorado Rockies.

Secret Service agents became more comfortable in the western Colorado town, and Ford even worked the airport crowd on a couple of visits.

A few of the agents also slipped away later to go deer hunting.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 257   

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