Shrill tinamou bird becomes inadvertent whistleblower on fake propaganda video shared during Ecuador elections

A caption at the bottom of the video described the setting as the Colombian jungle. But an ornithologist said the bird can only be found in Ecuador and Peru

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A widely shared video purporting to show a Colombian guerrilla force declaring its support for a candidate in the Ecuadorean election has been deemed fake thanks to the innocuous call of a ground-dwelling bird and a vigilant ornithologist.

The video, which was shared on social media on Jan. 31, showed three armed men standing in front of the red-and-black flag of the ELN — the National Liberation Army, Colombia’s largest guerrilla force — and declaring their support for Andres Arauz, the election’s leftist candidate.

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A caption at the bottom of the video described the setting as the ‘Colombian jungle’.

However an ornithologist watching the video immediately identified a bird whistle in the video as the pale-browed tinamou bird, which cannot be found in Colombia.

“I recognised the whistle instantly and I knew that the video could not have been filmed in Colombia,” Manuel Sánchez, an ornithologist and bird guide, told The Guardian.

The bird, he explained, lives in a small and rare dry forest-ecosystem in Western Ecuador and in northwest Peru. “Tinamous are quite primitive birds,” he said, and live on the forest floor.

“They don’t sing; they have short, inflected whistles,” he said.

The pale-browed tinamou is a ground-dwelling bird native to certain parts of Ecuador and Peru.
The pale-browed tinamou is a ground-dwelling bird native to certain parts of Ecuador and Peru. Photo by Getty Images

The ELN, according to The Guardian, have previously worked in northern Ecuador but there was no record of guerrilla activity within those ecosystems where the bird is found.

Others have also questioned the authenticity of the video after noticing spelling mistakes, strange accents and unusual weaponry.

The ELN has both denied releasing the video as well as any claims that it supports Arauz.

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