Feathery alarm clock begins the annual songfest

Yigüirro and Virginia white-tailed deer share stamp issued to honor national symbols.

The weather experts predict the arrival of the rainy season in the Central Valley a few days later this year about May 13.

But that prediction is lost on the national bird, the yigüirro, which has taken upon itself since last week the job of waking up the neighborhood around 3 a.m.

The bird, Turdus grayi, has personal reason for its pre-dawn serenade, but Costa Ricans have attributed this action to calling the rain, that is, the rainy season.

The bird is a cousin of the American robin but lacks the red breast. The  yigüirro became the official national bird in 1977. Two years ago Correos de Costa Rica came out with a commemorative stamp issue depicting the yigüirro and also the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus).

The tiny bird is as consistent as an alarm clock. The calls can be heard every morning about the same early time. Although the bird can be found all over the country, the bulk of the population is in the Central Valley where its call competed with unanswered automobile alarms.

An A.M. Costa Rica news story about the bird in 2007 noted that sometimes the bird is a bit early in predicting the rainy season. This year the calls started seven weeks before the date officially predicted Friday by the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional. The bird is hardly ever that far off, so some residents are expecting a start of the daily rains early next month.

The weather institute said its experts expect the rainy season to move into the northern zone around April 3, several days later than normal. The prediction for the southern and central Pacific coast is May 3, a bit later than normal. The estimate for the northern Pacific coast is May 23, a few days later than the long-term average.

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