Resplendent Quetzal

Quetzal, Resplendent

Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno), Savegre, Costa Rica, May 2003.

There are many reasons to visit Costa Rica but seeing the largest member of the trogon family is high on the list. Sparkling in shades of viridian and gold, with a scarlet underbelly, the Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) is nothing short of breathtaking. It occurs in mossy cloud forests on the mountain ranges of this biologically diverse country, feeding on insects such as cicadas and fruit such as the wild avocado.

Occurring from Mexico to Panama, this spectacular bird has played an important role in mythology and folklore throughout Central America. One Mayan legend claims that the quetzal used to sing splendidly before the Spanish conquistadors arrived, but has been silent ever since. Like all trogons, however, the beauty of this bird’s plumage and demeanor is not matched by its hoarse voice!

Only the male possesses the ribbon-like tail streamers and – with these – it measures almost a metre in length.

Choosing the most beautiful or awesome of the world’s approximately 10,000 bird species is an impossible task but the Resplendent Quetzal must surely be a contender.

Savegre Mountain Hotel, Costa Rica. May 2003.


About Duncan Butchart

Duncan Butchart is interested in all aspects of the natural world, with a particular fascination for birds and their ecological relationships.
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2 Responses to Resplendent Quetzal

  1. Alastair says:

    more great memories from CR – watching a male enter its nest in the Monte Verde cloud forest was a childhood dream come true! Thanks DB

    • Duncan Butchart says:

      Hi Al. Are you around next week by any chance? Reasonable chance that I might be able to take a morning gap to pop out to your place . . . DB

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