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Resplendent Quetzal

Pharomachrus mocinno

Status Endangered
Listed June 14, 1976
Family Trogonidae
Description A medium-sized, extremely colorful perching bird.
Habitat Tropical cloud forest.
Food Fruit, and some invertebrates and small vertebrate animals.
Reproduction Lays eggs in a tree-or stump-cavity.
Threats Habitat loss and hunting.
Range Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama

Description

The resplendent quetzal is a beautiful bird, and was worshipped by Mayan and Aztec cultures as the god of the air. It averages 14-15 in (35-38 cm) in body length. Both male and female quetzals have brilliant green upperparts, but the coloration of the rest of the body differs. The female has a brown breast and belly, and a fairly short, black-and-white tail. The male has an orange-red breast and belly and a magnificent, 3-ft (1-m) long tail that matches the green on its upperparts. This tail was used in religious ceremonies by both the Maya and Aztecs, and was incorporated into the image of the god Quetzalcoatl.

Behavior

The resplendent quetzal feeds mainly on fruit, supplemented with invertebrates and small vertebrates. It usually stays in the forest canopy, with its green upperparts providing good camouflage. It is a territorial bird, occupying a home range of 15-25 acres (6-10 hectares), which is patrolled by the male each morning and evening. The male flutters his long tail during courtship displays. The nest is built in a natural tree-or stump-cavity, and the female lays two blue eggs between March and June. Both parents are responsible for caring for the eggs during the incubation period of 17-19 days.

Habitat

The resplendent quetzal inhabits tropical cloud forest, but may also occur in adjacent partially cleared areas and pasture. It occurs over an altitudinal range of 4,000-10,000 ft (1,200-3,000 m).

Distribution

The resplendent quetzal occurs in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama.

Threats

The resplendent quetzal is threatened by the extensive clearing of its cloud forest habitat through timber harvesting and agricultural conversion. It has also been hunted for its beautiful feathers.

Conservation and Recovery

The resplendent quetzal has been designated as Guatemala's national bird, and areas of cloud forest are now protected in various areas in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Mexico. However, laws protecting the quetzal are difficult to enforce because of the remoteness of its habitat and a lack of funding for enforcement. The resplendent quetzal was recently downlisted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) and Bird Life International. This occurred in recognition of data showing that, although its wild populations are depleted, they are not as small as formerly thought.

Contact

Instituto Nacional de Ecología
Av. Revolución, 1425
Col. Campestre, C.P. 01040, Mexico, D.F.
http://www.ine.gob.mx/

References

Animals of the Rainforest. 2000. "Quetzal." Animals of the Rainforest. http://www.animalsoftherainforest.org/quetzal.htm. [Accessed 4 August 2000].

King, Warren B. 1977. Endangered Birds of the World. Smithsonian Institute Press, Washington D.C.

Pena, Erin. 1988. "Pharomachrus mocinno (Resplendent Quetzal): Narrative" University of Michigan. http://www.animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/pharomachrus/p._mocinno.html. [Acccessed 4 August 2000].

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Trogonidae (trogons; class Aves, order Trogoniformes) A family of medium to large birds which have bright green or brown backs, green, blue, or violet heads and throats, and pink, red, orange, or yellow breasts. They have rounded wings, and most have long, square-ended tails. Pharomacrus mocino (resplendent quetzal) has very elongated upper tail coverts. The 15 species of Trogon, found in Central and S. America, have distinctive black and white markings on the underside of the tail. Trogons’ bills are broad, with a curved culmen. Their legs are short, with the first and second toes directed backwards. They are arboreal, inhabit forests and clearings, and feed on insects and fruit, fluttering in front of a leaf to pick off food. They nest in tree cavities and holes in termite nests. There are eight genera, with 37 species, found in Africa, Asia, and Central and S. America. The 11 species of Harpactes, found in India, China, south-east Asia, and Indonesia, are the only oriental representatives.

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trogon Brilliantly coloured bird of dark tropical forests in America, Africa and Asia. Trogons nest in holes in trees and feed on fruit and some insect larvae. Length: about 30cm (12in). Family Trogonidae; typical genus Trogon.

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Trogoniformes (trogons; class Aves) An order that comprises the single family Trogonidae.

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resplendent quetzal (Pharomacrus mocino) See TROGONIDAE.

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Trogon (trogons) See TROGONIDAE.

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trogons See TROGONIDAE.