Venezuelan Independence and the Soldier Heron

jabiru at karanambu Guyana 2007 575

The great collector of neotropical birds George K. Cherrie reports that during the war for Venezuelan independence, “a small company of Venezuelan soldiers were entrapped by Spanish troops. . . . At daybreak, [the Spaniards] made ready to attack, but suddenly wheeled about and rode precipitately in the opposite direction. . . . The Venezuelans were overjoyed to see in the dim light of dawn a long line of soldiers in white coats with red collar bands and shiny black caps marching at a double quick straight towards the Spanish camp. The Spaniards, believing that enemy reinforcements had arrived, mounted their horses and fled.”

The “soldiers” that delivered the Venezuelans from certain annihilation were actually jabirus, “marching in solemn procession towards their feeding ground near the Spanish camp.”

Venezuela declared its independence 210 years ago today—and won the battle to keep it thanks in part to the “soldier heron,” the biggest and most imposing stork in the New World.