|Listed||June 14, 1976|
|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|
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.
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.
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).
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.
Instituto Nacional de Ecología
Av. Revolución, 1425
Col. Campestre, C.P. 01040, Mexico, D.F.
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].