Caripe, in the state of Monagas, Venezuela, is home to a nocturnal bird called the guácharo or “oil bird.” The guácharo (steatornis caripensis) uses echolocation to navigate through the dark cave that bears his name. La Cueva del Guácharo is an enormous cavern that goes deep into the earth of eastern Venezuela. There are underground rivers and many types of cave critters in this national park.
A visitor to the cave probably won’t see the resident birds, but will definitely hear them. From the roof of the cave, they squawk in protest at the intruding flashlights that interrupt their sleep. At sunset, the guácharos wake to leave their cave in search of breakfast. Popular legend says they fly to Brazil for seeds, but the park guides will assure you that this is impossible, since the oil palm fruits they eat are close to the cave. If they went to Brazil, they could never get back in time for bed in the morning.
The cacophony and the spectacle of thousands of guácharos leaving the cave are amazing, and make the cave a favorite attraction for tourists and locals. Many people camp out to see and hear them return in the morning. La Cueva del Guácharo is one more example of Venezuela’s wonderful and diverse natural heritage.