Resplendent Quetzal Fact File
The resplendent quetzal is often considered one of the world’s most spectacular birds. Males have a back, head, neck and wings which are colored iridescent emerald-green while the breast is bright crimson red.
Males have extravagant tail plumes which can reach up to 0.9m (3ft) long and trail behind the body. On top of their head is a bristle-like crest of golden green feathers.
Their short bill is colored orange in males and features a slight downwards curve. For females the bill is gray.
Females are much less spectacular than males with a grayish head and upper chest.
Their coloration is highly successful in camouflaging them within the forest.
Resplendent quetzal have olive-grey colored feet and legs with two foes facing forward and two pointing backward.
Their body will measure up to 36cm (14in) long excluding the males tail feathers. Their average weight is 210g (7.4oz).
The resplendent quetzal is an omnivore. Their diet is composed of fruit (especially wild avocado) as well as insects, snails, frogs and small mammals.
To obtain water they will visit the bases of bromeliads.
Wild 20 years
Captive 40 years
— AD —
Resplendent quetzals can be found through Central and South America. Here they live throughout the following countries – Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama.
They make their home among the canopy and sub-canopy of evergreen montane forest, cloud-forest and the thickly vegetated ravines and cliffs. They are most common in mature forests but may persist in clearings or pastures.
Breeding occurs from March to August. Males will court the females through courtship dances, calls and singing. Mating occurs in the nest.
Their nest is formed within a tree hollow and may be formed by them or they take over the hole created by a woodpecker, toucan or another animal. Their beaks and claws cannot get in to live wood so they must find a decaying tree. The cavity they create is left unlined.
In this nest the female will lay two eggs and the pair then work together to incubate these eggs for between 17 and 19 days. At hatching the chicks are naked with closed eyes. The eyes open after a week. By two weeks of age they are trying out food.
These chicks remain in the nest for 23 to 31 days before fledging.
It will take up to three years for males to develop their tail plumes.
Outside of breeding season these birds live in pairs or may form a small flock.
Their call is a smooth, deep, melodious call.
Predators and Threats
Humans have affected their population through habitat destruction to obtain charcoal and to create room for agriculture. One of their main needs is decaying trees to nest in and the destruction of these presents a major threat.
In part of their range they compete against keel-billed toucans for nest holes and this species also preys on the chicks of resplendent quetzals. The range of the keel-billed toucan has been expanding due to climate change in Montverde bringing the species in to direct competition.
The long tail feathers of males are collected for use in craft.
This species is also known as the resplendent trogon.
The resplendent quetzal was considered sacred by the Maya and the Aztecs. The Aztec word for precious or beautiful was quetzalli.
This species is the national emblem of Guatemala and their name is used for the countries currency.
By Frank Vassen – Flickr: Resplendent Quetzal, Mirador de Quetzales, Costa Rica, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14484377
By Dominic Sherony – Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno)Uploaded by Magnus Manske, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21239444
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