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 - Photo via Institute of Tourism -

Sparrow bird is new local symbol for Cartago

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Published on Thursday, July 20, 2023
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Cabanis's Ground-Sparrow (Melozone Cabanisi), a large sparrow of foothills and highlands in central Costa Rica, was chosen as the symbol bird of Paraíso Canton in Cartago Province.

It has a large black spot in the middle of its chest. The head pattern is distinctive: rusty cap, black forehead and cheek wrapping around a white face with a beady dark eye.

The bird is found in brushy woodland and overgrown clearings; usually on or near the ground and often in pairs.

Like other ground sparrows, it spends most of its time skulking in shady and often dense cover.

This species is restricted to living in a small range. They prefer dense undergrowth, scrublands, and forest edges as their primary habitat. It is usually found at elevations between 1,000 to 3,000 meters above sea level.

Despite its tolerance of habitat conversion, it is increasingly threatened by land-use change for urban developments, which is causing slow population declines. 

The species is therefore listed as Near Threatened, according to the Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

According to the Tourism Institute, it is common to see these birds in the wooded areas of Cartago, such as Ujarrás, Orosí and Turrialba.

Although this species is endemic to Costa Rica, it is difficult to spot. Now it will be possible to appreciate it more easily and every day at Paraíso Central Park, where the community placed a giant sculpture of its symbolic bird.

The two-meter-high sculpture was made with clay and fiberglass. The sculpture project was sponsored by the Municipality of Paraíso, and some community organizations such as Proyecto Cabanisi, Limpiemos Paraíso and Avestikas.

The statue was made by sculptor Cristhian Bonilla, who recognizes that "the presence of the Costa Rican bird is a great attraction for national and international bird watchers and photographers, so its conservation is important."

Other sculptors Johnny Ramírez, Mario Solano, Víctor Herrera, Nelson Díaz, Soleila Solano and Tamara Rojas also participated in the bird statue project. They call for the preservation of this bird due to "the accelerated loss and fragmentation of their habitat as a consequence of urbanization are their main threats," they said.

This species is on the list of endangered species of the National System of Conservation Areas (Sinac), which is the organization in charge of all the wild areas and national parks in the country.

Taking wild animals and keeping them in captivity is a crime in Costa Rica. According to the Wildlife Conservation Law, people found guilty of keeping wild species in captivity could pay a fine between $600 to $26,000 or even receive a prison sentence of one to three years.

Anonymous complaints about wild animals hunting or in captivity can be made by calling line 1192.

What should Costa Rican authorities do to protect endangered birds? We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to news@amcostarica.com