The Resplendent Quetzal is considered the world’s most beautiful bird. It is mostly found in vibrantly colored living in the mountainous, tropical forests of Central America. The bird prefers to eat fruit, insects, lizards, and other small creatures.
The Resplendent Quetzal belongs to the trogon family and can be found from southern Mexico to western Panama. The species is famous for its colorful plumage. Throughout the mating season, male quetzals grow twin tail feathers that form an astonishing train up to 3 feet long.
The Female bird does not have long trains, but they do share the radiant blue, green, and red coloring of their mates. However, Male colors tend to be more vibrant. The Resplendent Quetzal is Guatemala’s national bird. An image of it is on the flag and coat of arms of Guatemala, and also the name of the local currency.
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. Unfortunately, these striking birds are threatened in Guatemala and elsewhere throughout their range.
The colorful Resplendent Quetzals have a green body and redbreast. Their green upper tail coverts hide their tails and inbreeding males are predominantly marvelous, being longer than the rest of the body. The main wing coverts are also extraordinarily long and give a fringed appearance.
The male bird has a helmet-like crest. The bill, which is fairly covered by green filamentous feathers, is yellow in mature males and black in females. The quetzal skin is very thin and effortlessly torn. So it has evolved thick plumage to protect its skin. Like other members of the trogon family, it has large eyes that adapt easily to the dim light of its forest home.
The “song” is a treble syllable described as know or like “a whimpering pup”, often in pairs, which may be repeated monotonously. Resplendent Quetzals have other unmusical calls as well. Resplendent quetzal pairs use their authoritative beaks to hollow hole nests in rotted trees or stumps.
Inside the nest, they take turns incubating 2 or 3 eggs though males have such long tails that they sometimes stick outside the nest. Young quetzals can fly at approximately three weeks of age. But males do not begin to grow their long tail plumes for three years.
These majestically beautiful birds are actually weak fliers. They have various predators, such as ornate hawk-eagle, golden eagle, and other hawks and owls as adults, emerald toucanets, brown jays, long-tailed weasels, squirrels, and the kinkajou as nestlings or eggs.
They are from time to time trapped in captivity or killed. Hence, their most important threat is the disappearance of their tropical forest homes. In a few areas, most notably Costa Rica’s cloud forests, protected lands preserve habitats for the birds. They provide opportunities for ecotourists and eager bird watchers from around the globe. Such admirers continue a long history of adoration for the quetzal.
The bird was sacred to the ancient Maya and Aztec peoples and royalty and priests wore its feathers during ceremonies. Resplendent Quetzals habitually live alone when not breeding. They are monogamous territorial breeders, with the territory size being measured in Guatemala as 6 to 10 ha. They are also seasonal breeders, with the breeding season starting March to April in Mexico.
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