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resplendent quetzal

There are 6 species of Quetzal (also Quetzel and Quesal): Crested, Golden-headed, White-tipped, Resplendent, Pavonine, and Eared Quetzal.

Resplendent Quetzal lives in the mountainous cloud forests in Central America. These quetzals are about 14 inches long, but the male’s colorful tail can extend as much as thirty inches. The male’s breast is red. His other feathers are blue, green, yellow, and white.

Golden-headed males are green with black wings, red bellies, and a golden tinted heads; females aren’t as brilliant. They are found in Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru. Golden-headed quetzal nest in hollow trees.

The Eared Quetzal is found in parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico. The male has a green breast, back and upper wing, and a red belly. The female has a bronze greenish back and upper wing, and a deep gray breast. Both have white, green, black and red tails and dark heads.

Quetzals eat insects, small frogs, lizards, and fruit. The favorite fruit of many quetzals is aguacatillo, a miniature avocado, which they swallow whole, later spitting out the seed.

Quetzals make nests in rotted trees or stumps about 30 feet above the ground. Sometimes they use where a woodpecker has hollowed out a hole. Other times they use their beaks to peck out their own hollow. Both mother and father take turns sitting on the eggs. Young quetzals can fly when about three weeks old.

Fun Quetzal Facts

- The Resplendent Quetzal was sacred to the Mayans. To them it symbolized freedom and wealth. Their feathers were used as money, but killing Quetzals was forbidden.

- Male Resplendent quetzals do not begin to grow their long tail plumes for three years.

- In Guatemala, quetzals are the national symbol. Even their currency is called the quetzal.

- These beautiful birds are endangered, mainly through loss of habitat.

- Quetzal is pronounced ket-SAUL.


Avian web

"Birds in Costa Rica" by Christopher Baker []

National Geographic

Southeastern Arizona Bird Conservatory

Photo Credits

Steve Bird -

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