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Overview

Brief Summary

Description

The most spectacular feature of the resplendent quetzal, often held to be the most beautiful and ornate bird species in the Western Hemisphere, is the greatly elongated, glistening emerald-green tail feathers of breeding males (5) (6) (7). These are longer than the entire body of the bird, and are in fact upper tail coverts that extend beyond the bird's snow-white tail, forming an elegant train of 'streamers' that are flaunted during the mating season in a spectacular swooping flight display (8) (9). The rare beauty of this bird comes not only from this extravagant train, but also from the glitter of its iridescent plumage and striking contrast of its colouration. The head, neck, chest, back and wings are a metallic green, while the lower breast, belly and under tail coverts are bright crimson. In addition, a distinct tuft of bristly golden green feathers form a short crest on top of the male's head (5). Females are similar but of less conspicuous colours than males, having a bronze-green head and grey mid-breast to mid-belly, and without the impressive tail streamers (2) (5). The beak is short but powerful, yellow in the male and black in the female. Its impressive plumage and longstanding cultural significance to the people of Central America has earned the species the accolade of 'rare jewel bird of the world' from some cultures (5).
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Biology

The breeding season of the resplendent quetzal varies slightly across its range, but tends to fall somewhere between February and July (2) (7). During this time, males attract females by performing courtship dances, aerial displays, calls and loud singing (5) (8). Both the male and female assist in nest building, after which mating occurs within the chamber. One to two eggs are laid, which are then incubated by both parents for 17 to 18 days (5). Once hatched, the male and female take turns to feed the chicks until they fledge after 23 to 31 days (2) (5). It has been reported that less than 20 % of young survive to leave the nest, being preyed upon by toucanets, brown jays, squirrels and weasels (6), and that of those that fledge, another 80 % die before adulthood (2). During the first 10 days of life, hatchlings are fed almost exclusively on insects, with fruit and small vertebrates such as frogs, lizards and snails being introduced to the diet as they grow (2) (5). Fruit forms the bulk of the adult diet, preferentially wild avocados produced by the laurel family (Lauraceae), but insects, small frogs and lizards will be taken when fruit is scarce (2) (5).
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Distribution

Cloud forest and montane forests of Central America. Range from Southern Mexico to Panama.

(Gotch 1981)

Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )

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Range Description

Pharomachrus mocinno occurs throughout the montane cloud-forests of southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and western Panama east to Cerro San Antonio in Veraguas (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989, Stiles and Skutch 1989, Howell and Webb 1995a, Angehr and Jordán 1998). It is common in the Cordillera de Talamanca and protected cloud-forests in Costa Rica (C. J. Sharpe in litt. 1999, F. G. Stiles in litt. 1999), Cerro El Arenal and Cerro Kilambe reserves, Nicaragua (C. J. Sharpe in litt. 1999) and Sierra de Agalta National Park, Honduras (M. Bonta in litt. 1999), but otherwise uncommon to locally common. In Costa Rica in 1977, it was estimated that there were 12,868-13,821 individuals in Talamanca Forest and 4,652-4,997 in La Amistad National Park, based on the extrapolation of a density of 2.7-2.9 birds/km2 (del Hoyo et al. 2001). In 2007, populations in Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Costa Rica during the breeding season were estimated at 2,810-4,780 mature individuals, with 2,300-6,246 mature individuals estimated in the IBAs of Panama (J. Criado et al. in litt. 2007). Its populations are presently in decline.

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Historic Range:
Mexico to Panama

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Range

Found throughout Central America from southern Mexico to Panama, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua (5). Two subspecies are recognized, with distinct distributions. P. m. mocinno occurs in southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, eastern El Salvador and north-central Nicaragua, while P. m. costaricensis occurs in Costa Rica and the west highlands of Panama (2).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Size: 14 in. (35cm) from bill to base of tail. Males' magnificent tail can be up to as much as 3ft. (90cm) long. Excluding tail, the length of the quetzal is comparable in size to a Magpie, Grosbeak, or Pigeon.

(Grolier 1996, Grzimek 1972)

Coloration: The most extravagant feature of the male quetzal is its iridescent tail plumes, which can add up to 3 ft. to the birds length. The head, neck, chest, back and wings of the males are a metallic green, while the breast and belly are bright crimson. The male has a distinct tuft of bristly upstanding golden green feathers on top of his head, forming a crestlike structure.

The female quetzal is very similar in color, yet far less conspicuous than males. The head of the female ranges from smoky-gray to bronze tinged with green at the edgings. The breast is sometimes gray or a muted shade of red far less vibrant than the males. Often the brilliant green that the males display is replaced with browns and buff tones in the female.

(Grolier 1996, Middleton and Perrins 1985, Skutch and Stiles 1989, Skutch 1983)

Feet: The feet of the quetzal are very unusual, yet quintessential to the Trogon family. They have olive-gray colored feet with four toes on each foot (two in front and two in back). The first and second toes have been shifted to the rear, while the third and fourth are directed forward. This makes their feet very weak and the first and second toes immovable.

(Birkhead and Brooke 1991, Grzimek 1972, Skutch and Stiles 1989)

Skin: The skin of Pharomachrus mocino is very flimsy, thin and quite easily torn. Because of the fragile skin, feathers fall out excessively while being prepared in museums. Rapid fading of feather colors also make the quetzal a poor species for display.

(Birkhead and Brooke 1991)

Beak: The beak of the quetzal is significant to the name of its order and family; Trogon meaning gnawing in Greek. The quetzal's beak is fairly short although very powerful. The male bird has a yellow beak while the female's is black. Males and females use their small beaks primarily for nesting and gnawing.

(Grzimek 1972, Skutch and Stiles 1989)

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Ecology

Habitat

Talamancan Montane Forests Habitat

This taxon occurs in the Talamancan montane forests, an ecoregion situated along the mountainous spine of the Cordillera Talamanca within Costa Rica and Panama. These forests represent one of Central America’s most intact habitats. The steep slopes, remoteness and relatively cool temperatures have limited the impact of agriculture and human development in most of this area.

This region exhibits considerable floral and faunal species diversity, many of which taxa are endemic. Over 30 percent of the ecoregion's flora, including over 10,000  vascular and 4000 non-vascular plant species, are endemic to this area, as are a number of fauna species. Nearly 75 percent of original forest cover remains intact, with forty percent protected by national and international parks.

The rainfall and temperature in this area of Central America is a direct result of the elevation and orientation north or south side of the mountain range. The average temperature and rainfall for this part of Costa Rica varies from 25°C and 2000 millimetres (mm) at the Caribbean Sea level to –8° C and >6000 mm at the highest peaks including Cerro Chirripo, the highest point in southern Central America at 3820 m. The high humidity and precipitation (which averages between 2500 and 6500 mm annually), steep slopes, and cool temperatures have limited agricultural and urban development, making these highland moist forests one of Central America's most intact ecosystems.

The forest habitats of this ecoregion include Atlantic slope "aseasonal" rainforest, Pacific slope seasonally dry but mostly evergreen forest, and "perpetually dripping cloud forest" on the mountain tops, above approximately 1500 m. The high annual rainfall, wind-blown mist, and frequent presence of clouds, probably the most outstanding characteristic of these montane forests, produce a lush, dense forest with a broken canopy and high species diversity. Abundant epiphytes cover tree branches, and tree ferns are common. Dominant tree groups include the Lauraceae family, especially in the northern section of the ecoregion, and endemic oaks (Quercus spp.), especially in the south. The unique oak forest stands in this ecoregion are characterized by majestic, tall trees (up to 50 m tall), heavily dominated by two species: Quercus costaricensis and Q. copeyensis, while Magnolia, Drymis, and Weinmannia are also important tree elements. The understory is characterized by the presence of several species of dwarf bamboo (Chusquea). Higher peaks and ridges exposed to moisture-laden trade winds support an elfin, or dwarf forest characterized by thick mats of bryophytes covering short, dense gnarled trees.

Seismically induced phenomena, volcanism, and landslides (triggered by torrential rains or earthquakes) are the major natural disturbances influencing the montane forest units within the Talamancan Range. The resulting steep slopes and nutrient-deficient soils insure that this ecoregion harbors some of the most intact in Central America. The La Amistad International Park, one of the largest reserves in Central America, consists of over 400,000 hectares of relatively intact montane forest. These larger blocks of intact forest are essential for preserving remnant populations of harpy eagles (Harpia harpyja) and they protect breeding grounds of threatened and endangered birds endemic to the highland forests of this ecoregion, such as: resplendent quetzal (Pharomacrus mocinno), three-wattled bellbird (Procnias tricarunculata), bare-necked umbrellabird (Cephalopterus glabricollis), and black guan (Chamaepetes unicolor). The first three of these birds migrate seasonally to lower elevations, demonstrating the importance of not only maintaining intact highland habitats but also connecting them to neighboring intact middle and lower elevations. In fact, over 65 (or over ten percent) of the bird species found here migrate altitudinally.

The Atlantic middle elevations also contain some of the most rare species of  butterflies Central America, as well as some of the world's highest butterfly species richness. Populations of crested eagle and painted parakeet were recently discovered in Cerro Hoya on the Azuero Peninsula.

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The Quetzal is a relatively inactive bird who lives among lush vegetation, in very moist rainforest zones. They often choose high mountain ranges (4,000-10,00 ft.) that are cool. They live in the trees that form the canopy of the rainforest. Pharomachrus mocino prefers to inhabit decaying trees, stumps, and sometimes old woodpecker hollows. The biosterously loud colors of the quetzal are somewhat camouflaged by their natural habitat in the rainforest.

(Grolier 1996, Grzimek 1972, Skutch 1983)

Terrestrial Biomes: rainforest

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This species is usually found in the canopy and subcanopy of undisturbed, humid, epiphyte-laden evergreen montane forest, cloud-forest, thickly vegetated ravines and cliffs, park-like clearings and pastures and open situations with scattered trees adjacent to forest (del Hoyo et al. 2001). It occurs at 900-2,275 m in Oaxaca (Mexico), and at 1,200-1,500 m up to 3,200 m further south in its range (del Hoyo et al. 2001). It is mostly frugivorous, annually feeding on at least 41 species in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, Costa Rica (Wheelwright 1983). However, it depends mostly on c.18 species of the laurel family (Lauraceae), and the phenologies and habitat distributions of the Lauraceae appear to dictate the timing and direction of seasonal altitudinal movements between c.1,000 and c.3,000 m (Wheelwright 1983, Loiselle et al. 1989). The species also feeds on insects, small frogs, lizards and snails (del Hoyo et al. 2001). Breeding takes place in March-August. Its territory was measured at 6-10 ha in Guatemala. Its nest, in which it lays 1-2 eggs, is a deep, unlined cavity in a decaying trunk or stump. Its incubation period is 17-19 days, followed by a fledging period of 23-31 days (del Hoyo et al. 2001).


Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Found in the canopy and sub-canopy of undisturbed humid montane cloud forest, thickly vegetated ravines and cliffs, and pastures at forest edges (2) (10). High mountain ranges (900 – 3,200 m) that are cool are often favoured (2) (5). The nest is a deep, unlined excavated cavity with a single entrance in a decaying tree trunk or stump, or occasionally enlarged from an old existing woodpecker's hollow (5). In Costa Rica, altitudinal migrations have been recorded, in which the bird moves to lower elevations in the non-breeding season (10).
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Trophic Strategy

The quetzal is preferentially a frugivore, yet it often must commit to omnivorous practices. The favored fruits and berries of the quetzal are produced by the laurel family, whose fruits resemble miniature avocados. The aguacatillo is an example of a laurel fruit in the quetzal's diet. Quetzals maintain a mutualistic relationship with the laurel family, as the plants depend on the bird to disperse seeds in their droppings. Many birds may meet at one tree at the same time. The Ira Rose Tree is a common source of food for quetzals. When fruits are not available the quetzal resorts to eating a variety of foods such as insects, small frogs, and lizards. The quetzal is a great hunter: it swoops down and grasps its food (prey, or fruit) and engulfs it while in the air.

(http, Skutch 1983, Skutch and Stiles 1989)

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Reproduction

Breeding: The breeding season of the quetzal is from March to June. During this time males perform courtship dances, calls and loud singing in order to attract females. The male's call during this season sounds like "very-good very-good." Quetzals are hole-brooders that use their beaks to excavate holes in decaying bark, but they do not fill the brood with nesting materials such as thatch or leaves, they simply deposit their clutches on the bare floor of the chamber. Both male and female quetzals assist in the nest building. These simple nests are usually located 15-45 ft. from ground level, and are about 4-4 1/2 in. (10-11.4cm) in diameter.

Once a pair is established and the two have built a nest together, they mate inside the chamber. The female lays her eggs, usually two, on the floor of the chamber. The eggs are light-blue, globular in shape, and 35x30mm. Parental care is exhibited by both quetzals, during the incubation period of 17-18 days. The pair shares incubation duties, separating the times of day each cares for the clutch. The female broods during the night and midday, while the male broods in early morning and late afternoon. It was throught by native people that the quetzal built two entrances to the chamber so the male would not damage his fabulous plumes during incubation, but this idea has been discarded because male quetzals are often seen with tattered tails during mating season.

(Grolier 1996, Gzimek 1972, Skutch 1983, Skutch and Stiles 1989)

Hatchlings: After about 17-18 days, the quetzals eggs hatch exposing naked hatchlings with closed eyes and a white egg tooth near the tip of the upper mandible. The eyes remained closed for the entire first week after hatching. The hatchlings develop rapidly, and by two weeks they are profusely covered with feathers excluding their heads. The feathers of the young quetzal are very soft and pale in tone. They closely resemble the female in her muted tones of grays and dull greens. The young birds also lack the traces of crimson on the breast that both adult birds possess. During the first week the hatchlings are fed almost exclusively insects by both parents. Any debris or waste from hatchlings is removed from the chamber and the nest is kept very clean. When the young reach about two weeks of age, fruits and small vertebrates (frogs, lizards, and snails) are introduced to them. The nestlings stay in brooding chamber, and under the care of their parents for approximately three weeks, with the parents feeding them alternately as demonstrated in incubation. The juvenile birds approach the entrance of the chamber at about three weeks, and soon they are taught to fly usually by the male bird. The male feeds and tends to the bird which attempts to fly first, and the second is usually ignored until it too flies from the nest. Soon after, the birds can fly with confidence and they leave the nest permanently. The young birds, however, continue to spend time with their parents. The juvenile quetzals do not develop their vibrant colors for some time and male quetzals do not fully develop their plumes for three years.

(Grzimek 1972, Skutch 1983)

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

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Conservation

Conservation Status

The quetzal is legally protected in Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Panama, although enforcement in remote areas where birds are found is nearly impossible. In Costa Rica, national parks have been set up to protect the endangered quetzal. Braulio Corrillo, Pos, Chirripo, La Amistad, Monteverde and the Los Angeles cloud reserves all cooperate in the preservation of the Resplendent Quetzal.

The population of quetzals has greatly decreased due to factors such as cloud forest destruction, hunting, and capture of these birds for trade. The quetzal however, is still somewhat common in very remote areas of Central America.

(King 1977)

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: near threatened

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
NT
Near Threatened

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Symes, A. & Butchart, S.

Contributor/s
Biamonte, E., Bonta, M., Criado, J., Sandoval, L., Sharpe, C J, Stiles, F., Sánchez, C., Sánchez, J. & Zook, J.

Justification
This species is listed as Near Threatened because it is suspected to be experiencing a moderately rapid population decline, owing to widespread deforestation. Monitoring is required to confirm the rate of decline, and the results could lead to uplisting to a higher threat category.

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Current Listing Status Summary

Status: Endangered
Date Listed: 06/14/1976
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10) 
Where Listed: Entire


Population detail:

Population location: Entire
Listing status: E

For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Pharomachrus mocinno , see its USFWS Species Profile

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Status

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List 2004 (1), classified as Endangered on the U.S. Endangered Species Act 1976 (3), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (4).
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Population

Population
Partners in Flight estimated the population to number fewer than 50,000 individuals (A. Panjabi in litt. 2008), thus it is placed in the band 20,000-49,999 individuals here.

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
It is threatened largely by widespread deforestation throughout its range. The main problem for the Monteverde population is the fragmentation and destruction of forests to which it descends in the non-breeding season (Powell and Bjork 1994), and this is probably applicable to many populations. Some direct persecution probably still occurs, particularly in south Mexico, but this appears to have reduced (Stiles and Skutch 1989, Howell and Webb 1995a).

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The resplendent quetzal has declined significantly due to destruction of its cloud-forest habitat for subsistence agriculture, and hunting for food and trade (5) (7). It has long been thought that the quetzal does not fair well in captivity, and its inability to be caged has led it to become a symbol of liberty. As such, Guatemala has adopted the species as its national bird, with the species appearing on the coat of arms of the country, on the flag and postage stamps, and quetzal is even the name of the currency (5). Despite its revered status, however, the bird has suffered particularly badly in war-torn Guatemala due to widespread forest clearance for coffee plantations between 1880 – 1930, and hunting for its plumes (2) (7).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I. The species is an important symbol for conservation in Central America and reserves have been established to facilitate its protection, but these tend to be small and include limited representations of critical habitat (Wheelwright 1983). It occurs in several national parks throughout its range.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys to obtain an up-to-date population estimate. Monitor population trends through regular surveys. Monitor habitat loss and degradation throughout its range. Create habitat corridors between higher and lower forests to facilitate altitudinal movements (del Hoyo et al. 2001). Protect forests at both higher and lower elevations that are used by the same populations.

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Conservation

The resplendent quetzal is legally protected in Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama, but enforcement in remote areas is extremely difficult and poaching evidently continues (5). The species occurs in numerous protected areas across its range. In particular, Costa Rica has made great efforts to preserve the endangered bird through setting up an extensive system of national parks and wildlife reserves, resulting in a highly successful and lucrative eco-tourism business (7). However, the main problem for the Monteverde population in Costa Rica is that its seasonal migratory behaviour between higher and lower altitudes has complicated the conservation of the species (8). Only the habitat in which the bird breeds is protected within the confines of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, while the feeding ground to which it descends in the non-breeding season is on private land, and forests here are becoming increasingly fragmented (8) (10). Thus, there is presently an initiative underway, spearheaded by the Monteverde Conservation League, to persuade landholders to conserve parts of their land for this and other native fauna. Having been regarded with awe for centuries by a variety of cultures, the resplendent quetzal is now becoming increasingly vulnerable to extinction, and it is the collective responsibility of all its range nations to ensure that effective conservation measures are made now, so that this exquisite species and cultural icon may endure for many more centuries to come (8).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

The quetzal is very important to tourism in Central American countries. In places such as Guatemala and Costa Rica the quetzal is often held in captivity to attract tourists. These practices are very profitable for humans, however they are very detrimental to the population of the threatened quetzal.

(Grolier 1996)

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Wikipedia

Resplendent quetzal

This article is about the bird. For the short story, see The Resplendent Quetzal.

The resplendent quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) is a bird in the trogon family. It is found from Guatemala to western Panama (unlike the other quetzals of the genus Pharomachrus, which are found in South America and eastern Panama). It is well known for its colorful plumage. There are two subspecies, P. m. mocinno and P. m. costaricensis.

This quetzal plays an important role in Mesoamerican mythologies. The resplendent quetzal is Guatemala's national bird, and an image of it is on the flag and coat of arms of Guatemala. It is also the name of the local currency (abbreviation GTQ).

Taxonomy[edit]

The resplendent quetzal was first described by Mexican naturalist Pablo de La Llave in 1832. It is one of five species of the genus Pharomachrus known as quetzals. The term "quetzal" was originally used for just this species, but is now applied to all members of the genera Pharomachrus and Euptilotis.

Two subspecies are recognised, P. m. mocinno and P. m. costaricensis. The epithet mocinno is Llave's Latinization of the name of the biologist J. M. Mociño, a mentor of his. (It is sometimes spelled mocino, but "ñ" was formerly spelled "nn" in Spanish, so the spelling with "nn" is justified and in any case now official.[3][4])

The word "quetzal" came from Nahuatl (Aztec), where quetzalli (from the root quetz = "stand") meant "tall upstanding plume" and then "quetzal tail feather"; from that Nahuatl quetzaltotōtl means "quetzal-feather bird" and thus "quetzal".[5]

Description[edit]

This species is 36–40 cm (14–16 in) long, plus up to 65 cm (26 in) of tail streamer for the male, and weighs about 210 g (7.4 oz). It is the largest representative of the trogon order.[6] The subspecies costaricensis is slightly smaller than the nominate race and has shorter narrower tail plumes.

Resplendent quetzals have a green body (showing iridescence from green-gold to blue-violet) and red breast. Their green upper tail coverts hide their tails and in breeding males are particularly splendid, being longer than the rest of the body. The primary wing coverts are also unusually long and give a fringed appearance. The male has a helmet-like crest. The bill, which is partly covered by green filamentous feathers, is yellow in mature males and black in females.

The skin of the quetzal is very thin and easily torn, so it has evolved thick plumage to protect its skin.[citation needed] Like other members of the trogon family, it has large eyes that adapt easily to the dim light of its forest home.[citation needed]

The "song" is a treble syllable described as kyow or like "a whimpering pup", often in pairs, which may be repeated monotonously. Resplendent quetzals have other unmusical calls as well.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Their habitat is montane cloud forest from Southern Mexico to western Panama.

Behavior[edit]

Resplendent quetzals are weak fliers. Their known predators include the ornate hawk-eagle and owls as adults, emerald toucanets, brown jays, long-tailed weasels, squirrels, and the kinkajou as nestlings or eggs.[7]

Feeding[edit]

A male

Resplendent quetzals are considered specialized fruit-eaters, although they mix their diet with insects (notably wasps, ants, and larvae), frogs and lizards.[8] Particularly important are wild avocados and other fruit of the laurel family, which the birds swallow whole before regurgitating the pits, which helps to disperse these trees.

Breeding[edit]

Male leaving nest hole

Resplendent quetzals usually live alone when not breeding. They are monogamous territorial breeders, with the territory size being measured in Guatemala as 6–10 ha (15–25 acres). They are also seasonal breeders, with the breeding season being March to April in Mexico, May to June in El Salvador and March to May in Guatemala.[9] When breeding, females lay two pale blue eggs in a nest placed in a hole which they carve in a rotten tree. A tree in the required stage of decomposition is susceptible to weather damage, and the availability of suitable trees may limit the resplendent quetzal population.

Both parents take turns at incubating, with their long tail-covert feathers folded forwards over the back and out of the hole, where they tend to look like a bunch of fern growing out of the hole. The incubation period lasts about 18 days, during which the male generally incubates the eggs during the day while the female incubates them at night. When the eggs hatch, both parents take care of the young, feeding them fruit, berries, insects, lizards, and small frogs. However, the female often neglects and even abandons the young near the end of the rearing period, leaving it up to the male to continue caring for the offspring until they are ready to survive on their own.

Status and conservation[edit]

The resplendent quetzal is classified as near threatened on the IUCN Red List due to habitat loss.[1] However, it does occur in several protected areas throughout its range and is a sought after species for bird watchers and eco-tourists.

Relationship with humans[edit]

Myth and legend[edit]

The resplendent quetzal was considered divine, associated with the "snake god", Quetzalcoatl by Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican civilizations. Its iridescent green tail feathers, symbols for spring plant growth, were venerated by the ancient Aztecs and Maya, who viewed the quetzal as the "god of the air" and as a symbol of goodness and light. Mesoamerican rulers and some nobility of other ranks wore headdresses made from quetzal feathers, symbolically connecting them to Quetzalcoatl. Since it was a crime to kill a quetzal, the bird was simply captured, its long tail feathers plucked, and was set free. Quetzalcoatl was the creator god and god of wind, often depicted with grey hair. In several Mesoamerican languages, the term for quetzal can also mean precious, sacred, or erected.

Guatemalan ½ Quetzal

Until recently, it was thought that the resplendent quetzal could not be bred or held for any long time in captivity, and indeed it was noted for usually killing itself soon after being captured or caged.[citation needed] For this reason it is a traditional symbol of liberty. However, the Miguel Álvarez del Toro Zoo in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, Mexico has kept this species since 1992, and in 2004 breeding in captivity was announced. A chick hatched and reached the age of six weeks at the time of the report.[10]

The bird is of great relevance to Guatemalan culture, being a character in the widely popular legend of the local hero Tecún Umán, a prince and warrior of the Quiché (K'iche') Maya during the latter stages of the Spanish conquest of the region. This quetzal was his nahual (spirit guide). The Quiché repelled several attacks from the Spanish army, even though outmatched in weaponry (guns, armor and cavalry against spears and arrows).

Legend has it that on the day the conquistador Pedro de Alvarado fought against Tecún Umán, there was a quetzal flying overhead. On the first strike Tecún Umán, on foot, managed to disable Pedro de Alvarado's horse. Alvarado was then given another horse and on the second strike ran through Tecún Umán's chest with a spear. The quetzal flew down and landed on Tecún Umán, dipping its chest in the warrior prince's blood. It is there that the bird acquired its distinctive red chest feathers.[11]

It is debatable whether these events happened, but the Maya fought fiercely for their land and freedom during the conquest. One Mayan legend claims that the quetzal used to sing beautifully before the Spanish conquest, but has been silent ever since; it will sing once again only when the land is truly free.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2012). "Pharomachrus mocinno". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ "Pharomachrus mocinno". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 20 July 2014. 
  3. ^ Eisenmann, E. (1959). "The Correct Specific Name of the Quetzal, Pharomachrus mocinno". Auk 76 (1): 108. doi:10.2307/4081862. 
  4. ^ "Pharomachrus mocinno Nomenclature". zoonomen.net. June 2005. 
  5. ^ Andrews, J. Richard (2003). Introduction to Classical Nahuatl. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-3452-6. 
  6. ^ Johnsgard, Paul A. (2001). Trogons and Quetzals of tThe World. Smithsonian. ISBN 978-1-56098-388-0. 
  7. ^ Pribor, Paul (May 24, 1999). "The Biogeography of the Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno)". San Francisco State University. Retrieved October 6, 2006. 
  8. ^ Dayer, Ashley. "Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno)". Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Retrieved 23 December 2011. 
  9. ^ Collar, N.J. (2001). "Family Trogonidae (Trogons)". In del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 6 Mousebirds to Hornbills. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions. pp. 126–127. ISBN 84-87334-30-X. 
  10. ^ Orellana, Claudia (2004). "Quetzals Bred in Captivity in Chiapas". Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (Ecological Society of America) 2 (7): 345. doi:10.2307/3868355. JSTOR 3868355. 
  11. ^ Pena, Erin (2001). "Pharomachrus mocinno". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 

Sources[edit]

  • Atkins, Edward G.; Kimber, Rita; Kimber, Robert, eds. (1991). Vanishing Eden: The Plight of the Tropical Rain Forest. Barrons Educational Series, Inc. ISBN 0-8120-6246-9. 
  • Henderson, Carrol L.; Adams, Steve; Skutch, Alexander F. (2010). Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide. Austin: University of Texas Press. pp. 176–177. ISBN 0-292-71965-5. 
  • Howell, Steve N. G.; Webb, Sophie (1995). A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-854012-4. 
  • Williamson, Sheri L.; Colston, P.R. (2003). "Trogons". In Christopher Perrins (Ed.). Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds. Firefly Books. pp. 362–363. ISBN 1-55297-777-3. 
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