The Andean Owl, a Bringer of Ill Fortune and Wisdom

The owl is one of the important birds of the Andes. It carries a lot of significance and mystery. It is also known as tuco and is considered a bird that announces death. At the same time it is a symbol of good fortune and wisdom.

Our grandfathers mostly knew the owl as the taco malagüero, that is the tuco who brings bad omens. It is a bird of the Andean highlands and lives above 3500 meters altitude. Its scientific name is buvus virginianos.

They say that when someone is about to die, the tuco malagüero comes to the house and perches on the roof where it begins to sing. In this way it announces the death of a family member of the home. People who hear the song of the owl get frightened. They say it is bad luck, a bad omen. Alarmed, they immediately begin to pray. It is given, however, that someone in your family is going to die. Not far from the date of the song you will know who it is.

Our grandparents always talk about this.

Not too long ago I met an older man who is a musician in Cusco and plays huayno, a traditional Peruvian musical form.  He wore two feathers. The stood out from his hat. I asked him what bird the feathers were from and he told me they were from the owl.  He told me about the taco malagüero and said that two feathers like he wore is a symbol of dualism, in the Andean fashion, and a symbol of wisdom and protection.

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