IUCN threat status:

Near Threatened (NT)

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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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