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Photo Friday – All the President’s birds

September 4, 2009

El Palacio de las Garzas is where Panama’s President resides — along with his staff and birds, herons. In fact the English translation of the palace is Palace of the Herons. It’s a tradition that started back in the 1920’s when the President’s poet friend – Ricardo Miro – gifted two white herons. And so the story continues. When Jimmy Carter visited in 1977,  the two herons in residence at the time mysteriously died. Some say from demons, others say from broken hearts but the truth was – disinfectant. Before Mr Carter arrived the floor where the herons stood was sprayed down with chemicals which killed the birds. To avoid embarrassment, two more herons were smuggled in during the dark night hours.

In keeping with the heron tradition, Nelson Mandela gifted two South African grey herons to the palace during the time of his presidency. These herons still stand to this day in the courtyard, behind iron bars, on cold tiles, away from wetlands and their native habitat.

by Cate

by Cate

Life in the President’s palace may be brighter than I’m telling it, afterall they do get the best treatment,  never have to worry about being attacked by natural predators, and spend most of their time posing for camera happy tourists.

Why would you want to be on a natural wildlife reserve when you can be a part of the President’s birds? Just watch out for over zealous cleaners and disinfectants.

For more Photo Friday stories go to Delicious Baby

Caffeinated Traveller

  1. September 4, 2009 1:33 pm

    As an animal lover and environmentalist, I feel for the herons, but what a great ‘telling a story’ photo.

  2. September 4, 2009 3:32 pm

    That is one tradition that needs to come to an end. Great shot though

  3. September 4, 2009 7:10 pm

    I like the reflection of the bird in this photo!

  4. September 4, 2009 7:45 pm

    Herons in flight are incredibly majestic birds to watch. Nice that you could see them up close, but the cage is disturbing.

  5. September 4, 2009 9:26 pm

    They are beautiful to watch in flight which is why I think these birds must be in need of some exercise for their wings. Guess they have been clipped. Do their feathers look straggly or is it just me?

    Glennia – the bars do look misleading but it’s not a cage rather a gate between the street and the main entrance. These birds seemed to be free roamers within the courtyard. I was only allowed to take pictures from outside the gate and was told not to get too close to the birds in case they snap. Any wonder they would snap being penned in.

    Thanks for your comments everyone.

  6. September 4, 2009 11:14 pm

    Beautiful picture! This kind of reminds me of the ducks at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis (although they’re not nearly as beautiful as herons, obviously). They are treated well, but wouldn’t they rather be in their natural habitat?

  7. September 5, 2009 9:17 am

    You have a good story, but I do not think they are happy staying inside the palace.

  8. September 6, 2009 11:25 am

    That’s an insteresting story and a great picture that tells of how sad these birds must be standing on cold and slippery tiles.

  9. September 7, 2009 12:06 am

    Hi Cate. Reading this post and realizing that you are writing about Panama, I eagerly scrolled through the rest of your recent posts. I have not been there but have spent time in Nicaragua, so I’m quite curious about Panama. What fantastic photos and stories – especially about the buses (which look like you’ve captured their colors in motion) and about the canal. Glad to have made it to your blog again.

  10. September 7, 2009 12:11 pm

    When I traveled through Central America, I loved Panama most. I didn’t make it to the President’s Palace and didn’t see the herons though.

    That IS a sad story about the way those poor creatures died!

  11. Zowie permalink
    September 7, 2009 6:41 pm

    Why do they still keep them on the tile? Wouldn’t they make a much more beautiful attraction if they were in a more natural habitat? Such a shame.

    • September 7, 2009 7:43 pm

      Thanks for your comments everyone, it looks like we are all of similar thinking – lovely birds but why have them there in show. I wanted to show you all something different besides another picture of a building.

      Beth – the palace is big, white and impenetrable, well for tourists that is. Even to stand in front of the palace where I was required special permission and my bag searched. So you didn’t really miss anything. But I have to agree with you on Panama being great spot and the city itself is much more cosmopolitan than I expected.

      Zowie – you would think they would put the birds somewhere greener and natural. Then they may have to rename the palace, and to do that they would probably have to have a referendum on that like other democratic countries do.


  12. September 7, 2009 11:01 pm

    Well, this isn’t usually what people seem to mean these days when they give a president “the bird” (not a nice gesture by any means)!

    We do see a lot of herons and egrets in parks around the Detroit area. Truly beautiful birds, especially when you see them in flight.

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