Thursday, April 09, 2015

The Lost and Not Found Chichirika

My grandmother loved i paluman natibun Guahan pat i paluman Chamorro siha. Recently while going through her numerous papers and documents I came across some stories she had written, on her own, for herself or for my children perhaps in Chamorro about Guam's native birds. She always told me stories about the birds in her youth and how sad it was to no longer hear them.

It is common nowadays to feel like there are no birds left on Guam, because most of the native bird population has died out, killed by brown tree snakes and by loss of habitat. Ti mismo magahet este na sinangan. Hunggan i meggaina na paluma siha manmatai guini giya Guahan. Yes it is true that most of the birds on Guam are gone, but certain birds are still active and audible. The only problem is that most of them are recently introduced. Some of the endemic or indigenous birds that you can still find around Guam are the chunge', the kakkak, the sali, the aga and if you head down to Dano' you can see Ko'ko' and other ocean birds. But around central Guam in flat populated areas you'll see lots of small little birds that sometimes fly into businesses, make their nests in peoples' windows and you hear chirping all over. They are called Paluman pale' or ga'ga' pale', but some people more and more have come to refer to them as "chichirika." Nina'sen bubu yu' anai hu hungok este. This really pisses me off.

The chichirika looks nothing like the paluman pale'. They don't act the same, sound the same, one is a richer cultural history here, the other just flies around. The chichirika for those not familiar with it is a bird heavily associated with taotaomo'na and supernatural jungle beliefs. The chichirika is most prominently the wingman or wingbird of the Duendes, the tricksters spirits known for snatching children who wander into the jungle alone. It is unfortunately no longer found on Guam, but can be fund in the CNMI.

It depressing on its own the demise of most of our native birds. But this is maddening to hear people refer to a recently introduced bird in this way, to basically erase the place of the chichirika. Gof bunito i chichirika, gof bunito lokkue' i hagas na saga'-na gi kuttura-ta yan estoria-ta. Ti ya-hu taimanu mafunas i paluma ni i kuentos taitiningo' pa'go. Please let's not erase the real chichirika from our memory by confusing it with an entirely different bird.

I was inspired to write about this after seeing the post below from the blog Contemporary Chamorro Connections:


^ ^ Chichirika ^ ^
Chichirika (Rufous Fantail): The Rufous Fantail, or "Chichirika" as it is known in Chamorro, used to be found all over Guam.  However, they became extinct in the mid 1980's due to the predation by the introduced brown tree snake and possible Chemical Droppings of Malathion and DDT by the US military. 

This bird got its common name from its red-brown feathers and the habit of spreading its tail like a fan.  < Subspecies Endemic to Guam > EXTINCT

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v v Not Chichirika v v

Eurasian Tree-Sparrow (Passer Montanus): This bird was introduced to Guam after world War II and is one of the most common birds remaining on our island today.  The Tree-Sparrow is mostly brown with a black chin and ear patches.  Some people have confused the tree-sparrow with the Rufous Fantail (Chichirika) a native forest bird that is now extinct.  The tree-sparrow is even mistakenly called the "Chichirika" which was the Rufous Fatail's Chamorro name.        < Introduced Species >

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