Resplendent Quetzal (pharomachrus Mocinno): Species Accounts
Physical characteristics: Resplendent quetzals generally have brilliant glittering gold-green upperparts, including the head and upper chest, which change to bluish colors depending on the direction they are seen in the sunlight. Their underparts are crimson in color from the middle to lower sections of the breast. Flight feathers are blackish, with parts beneath the tail being white. Males have a yellow bill, which is partly hidden by green feathers that circle around the eyes. Females have a blackish to yellow bill; bronze-green head; green upperparts, throat, and upper breast; gray from the mid-breast to the mid-belly; blackish upper portions of the tail; and grayish black and white under parts of the tail. Male young are similar to females, except with a yellow bill, more bronze on the upperparts, and additional white under the tail. Resplendent quetzal adults are 14.2 to 15.7 inches (36 to 40 centimeters) long, with tail streamers that are a length of up to 25.6 inches (65 centimeters). They weigh between 6.3 and 7.4 ounces (180 and 210 grams).
Geographic range: Resplendent quetzals are found in areas of Central America, from southern Mexico to western Panama.
Habitat: Resplendent quetzals occur in forests and along forest edges, mostly in the canopy and sub-canopy (below the treetops), but can be found in lower areas. Specifically, they are found in mountainous evergreen forests, densely vegetated ravines and cliffs, park-like clearing and pastures, and open areas with scattered trees next to forests.
Diet: Resplendent quetzals eat fruit, insects, small reptiles (such as lizards), and amphibians (such as frogs).
Behavior and reproduction: Resplendent quetzals are territorial by nature. They nest in a deep, unlined cavity with one entrance. The nest is usually 14 to 90 feet (4.3 to 27 meters) off the ground in a rotting trunk or stump in the forest or in a nearby clearing. During the breeding season, which lasts from March to June, male resplendent quetzals show off to females with flying displays. Females lay one to two eggs, incubate them for seventeen to nineteen days, and then fledge them (raise them until they can fly) for twenty-three to thirty-one days.
Resplendent quetzals and people: The ancient Maya and Aztec cultures of Central America have long honored resplendent quetzals. Their plumes were used for decoration well into the twentieth century. Their colorful plumage is very popular with birdwatchers.
Conservation status: Resplendent quetzals are Near Threatened mostly due to poachers and habitat disturbances. Threats include habitat clearance, poaching, lack of law enforcement, and local exploitation of forest resources. ∎
FOR MORE INFORMATION
del Hoyo, Josep, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, et al., eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, 1992.
Dickinson, Edward C., ed. The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World, 3rd ed. Princeton, NJ and Oxford, U.K.: Princeton University Press, 2003.
Elphick, Chris, John B. Dunning, Jr., and David Allen Sibley, eds. The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001.
Forshaw, Joseph, ed. Encyclopedia of Birds, 2nd ed. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 1998.
Harrison, Colin James Oliver. Birds of the World. London and New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1993.
Perrins, Christopher M., and Alex L. A. Middleton, eds. The Encyclopedia of Birds. New York: Facts on File, 1985.
Stattersfield, Allison J., and David R. Capper, eds. Threatened Birds of the World: The Official Source for Birds on the IUCN Red List. Cambridge, U.K.: BirdLife International, 2000.
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