The camo-coated groundpounder

Home > Culture > Features

print dictionary print

The camo-coated groundpounder

Among the various bird species inhabiting the peninsula, the camo-coated groundpounder, also widely known as the gunbari, is probably the easiest to recognize. Its green, brown and tan feathers make this bird extremely hard to find in the mountain areas near the DMZ where this species is concentrated. All in all, there are approximately 600,000 camo-coaters across Korea.

Perhaps this bird's most notable characteristic is its tendency to fly and live in formations of unheard magnitudes. Groups of camo-coaters can vary from as small as 25, to swarms that can fill the air like clouds.

Another characteristic of this bird is its strong instinct to collaborate, whether for hunting or defense, when attacked by other species. This is unusual since most birds are known to hunt alone.

The camo-coated groundpounder can also be spotted easily by the extremely short feathers atop and on the sides of its head. For unknown reasons, this bird does not like to show off these short feathers.

Researchers are unsure at this point why the camo-coated groundpounder buzzes a city only 15 times per year, on average. What is it looking for during those visits? Researchers say it may have to do with mating of the female species, but that hasn't been completely verified.

Another peculiarity: The species lives 26 to 30 months, then disappears. Does it die? That's not perfectly clear, say authorities, since the day that 26 or 30 month period ends, the camo-coated groundpounder is heard to chirp repeatedly with great and unabated vigor.


The skin of a camo-coated groundpounder is like the skin of all others in the species. This occurs for several reasons, a chief one being that a camo-coater must look like all others, no matter how early in the morning he flies or where he lands or what exercises he does.

His skin is flat and creased, as if a uniform that has been pressed again and again with a sharp blade. There are markers on that skin in prominent places. Scientists have argued long and hard what those markers might mean. Some markers seem to indicate that this or that bird can soar high into the air, kicking his talons as he goes. Just why the bird would want to soar and kick is not known. Other markers seem to indicate status among his species, but scientists are completely baffled by this since it's not known how a bird gains status simply by flapping his wings as he leaves the nest or swallowing an earthworm whole.

There is one school of thought that suggests the markers are trivial rites of passage, and that the birds show them off to impress each other or the females of the species who, it's been well established, have zero interest in the markers, the special skins or what all of it means.


The eyes of a camo-coated groundpounder have been known to leak an abundance of fluids. This generally happens, language experts have decided, when this species receives messages to process.

When a camo-coated groundpounder acquires a certain communique from a female of the species, the fluids increase. Scientists have termed these "Dear Jeong" messages. The camo-coater wobbles about in circles after assimilating such messages. When the birds attempt to take off, their feathers often fail to work and they fall to earth as if never wanting to stir again.

Then there are messages the male species receives from his home nest. Scientists have discovered that a communique from the bird's mother also generates fluids. Some sort of supportive, loving command is in these dispatches, but of course scientists don't know exactly what.

When the camo-coated groundpounder's father communicates, the message doesn't generate fluids. It doesn't generate much of anything, it's been learned, except what has been called as an "aviary sigh." The message, researchers theorize, simply reminds the species that he is now a big bird.


What comes out of the beaks of camo-coated groundpounders has long fascinated ornithologists. It's not a contented chirp, nor a calm caw. The best that bird students can tell is that this noise is more of a squawk that shows annoyance or frustration. These sounds are not at all pleasant to the ear. Speech pathologists liken the noises to human curses. There are approximately seven chief sounds, used intermittently and interchangeably. Often, it appears, the sounds are both subjects, verbs and objects of a so-called "sentence," and these sentences frequently have no other sounds in them except these.


There doesn't seem to be a camo-coated grounderpounder that does not care to eat something called a Choco-Pie, a round cake-like snack that the species manages to find in well-inhabited places.

The relationship with a Choco-Pie starts early in a camo-coated's life, not long after the feathers atop and on the sides of his head suddenly diminish. There are big supplies of these food items where the birds perch, but only when they have behaved, it seems, are they available, and even then under supervision.

Apparently at this point in their lives the species has trouble finding enough to eat. The bird is away from his family and flying in these large formations and his deep hunger comes regularly. Choco-pies fill the need and he often brings them back to nests he shares with up to 30 other male birds of the species. Often at night he consumes these pies or else a plastic package of worm-like snacks, to which he adds hot water. For a long time experts thought this item bore an ancient Roman origin, but now it's believed to be ramen.


When the camo-coated groundpounder leaves the nest for these extended 26- to 30- month periods, he flies to his home nest periodically. Upon his return to the bigger nest he shares with other groundpounders, the camo-coater carries a bag that he has put together during his brief weekend sojourn. Usually the birds' mothers have helped fill the bag with chicken-like items and what ornithologists believe are rice cakes. The camo-coated groundpounder has added such oddities as the recorded sounds of other birds singing and packages of white sticks that always make the bird sputter uncontrollably, as if coughing.


When a camo-coated groundpounder ages, he seems to like nothing more than gathering with other camo-coaters and apparently chirping about when they flew together in formation as younger birds. They also appear to love playing with these big round balls kicked about when they were in these flying squadrons. Half a day, it seems, was spent kicking the white ball.

For some reason the female species of this bird hate these chirp sessions more than anything they have ever been around, and will quickly buzz off at merest start of such a session.

by Brian Lee
Log in to Twitter or Facebook account to connect
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
help-image Social comment?
lock icon

To write comments, please log in to one of the accounts.

Standards Board Policy (0/250자)