The Alicanto is a glowing nocturnal bird comparable to the Carbuncle, perhaps sharing the same folkloric origin. It is known to inhabit Chile, and has been reported from Atacama, San Bernardo, Santiago, Talagante, and Tarapacá.
Alicantos feed exclusively on metal ores, and take on the color of the metal they ingest – a gold-eating alicanto emits a golden light, while the silver-eating variety glows a cold metallic gray. The rare copper-eating alicanto is greenish, with large wings, a hooked beak, long legs, and sharp claws. Due to its phosphorescence, an alicanto does not cast a shadow. The eyes are bright and gleam silver.
These birds are flightless, but their wings are perfectly functional. They will often gorge themselves on metal, filling their crop so much that they cannot fly. At best they run fast with their wings held open; a full alicanto can barely drag itself along the ground.
Alicantos live around mines and hidden treasure, and nest in small caves. The female always lays two eggs, the shells of which are made of the metal she eats.
As an alicanto indicates the presence of precious metal, finding one can be highly lucrative. For that reason they are sought out by prospectors, engineers, miners, and unscrupulous looters hoping that the birds will lead them to rich veins. However, an alicanto is highly protective of its food sources, and if it knows it’s being followed, it will stop glowing and disappear into the darkness – or worse, lead its pursuers to a cliff.
Aguirre, S. M. (2003) Mitos de Chile. Random House, Editorial Sudamericana Chilena.
Cifuentes, J. V. (1947) Mitos y supersticiones (3rd Ed.). Editorial Nascimento, Santiago, Chile.