Resplendent Quetzal
Overview
 
The Resplendent Quetzal, Pharomachrus mocinno, is a bird in the trogon
Trogon
The trogons and quetzals are birds in the order Trogoniformes which contains only one family, the Trogonidae. The family contains 39 species in eight genera. The fossil record of the trogons dates back 49 million years to the mid-Eocene. They might constitute a member of the basal radiation of...

 family. It is found from southern Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 to western Panama
Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

 (unlike the other quetzal
Quetzal
Quetzals are strikingly colored birds in the trogon family . They are found in forests and woodlands, especially in humid highlands, with the five species from the genus Pharomachrus being exclusively Neotropical, while the single Euptilotis species is almost entirely restricted to western Mexico...

s of the genus Pharomachrus, which are found in South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

 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.
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
The Resplendent Quetzal, Pharomachrus mocinno, is a bird in the trogon
Trogon
The trogons and quetzals are birds in the order Trogoniformes which contains only one family, the Trogonidae. The family contains 39 species in eight genera. The fossil record of the trogons dates back 49 million years to the mid-Eocene. They might constitute a member of the basal radiation of...

 family. It is found from southern Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 to western Panama
Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

 (unlike the other quetzal
Quetzal
Quetzals are strikingly colored birds in the trogon family . They are found in forests and woodlands, especially in humid highlands, with the five species from the genus Pharomachrus being exclusively Neotropical, while the single Euptilotis species is almost entirely restricted to western Mexico...

s of the genus Pharomachrus, which are found in South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

 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
Guatemala
Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast...

's national bird, and an image of it is on the flag
Flag of Guatemala
The flag of Guatemala features two colors: sky blue and white. The two sky blue stripes represent the fact that Guatemala is a land located between two oceans, the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean ; and the sky over the country . The white color signifies peace and purity.In the center of the...

 and coat of arms of Guatemala
Coat of arms of Guatemala
The coat of arms of Guatemala comprises:* A wreath of bay laurel branches, the symbol for victory;* The Resplendent Quetzal, a bird that symbolizes liberty;...

. It is also the name of the local currency
Guatemalan quetzal
The quetzal is the currency of Guatemala. It is named after the national bird of Guatemala, the Resplendent Quetzal. In ancient Mayan culture, the quetzal bird's tail feathers were used as currency. It is divided into 100 cents, called centavos in standard Spanish or lenes in Guatemalan slang...

 (abbreviation GTQ).

Taxonomy

The Resplendent Quetzal was first described by Mexican naturalist Pablo de La Llave
Pablo de la Llave
Dr. Pablo de La Llave was a Mexican Catholic priest, politician, and naturalist.He was born to a wealthy family and grew up in Córdoba, Veracruz. After a brilliant university career, he became a teacher in the national college of St. John Lateran and doctor of theology at what was then the...

 in 1832. It is one of five species of the genus Pharomachrus
Quetzal
Quetzals are strikingly colored birds in the trogon family . They are found in forests and woodlands, especially in humid highlands, with the five species from the genus Pharomachrus being exclusively Neotropical, while the single Euptilotis species is almost entirely restricted to western Mexico...

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
Pablo de la Llave
Dr. Pablo de La Llave was a Mexican Catholic priest, politician, and naturalist.He was born to a wealthy family and grew up in Córdoba, Veracruz. After a brilliant university career, he became a teacher in the national college of St. John Lateran and doctor of theology at what was then the...

's Latinization of the name of the biologist J. M. Mociño
José Mariano Mociño
José Mariano Mociño Suárez Lozano , or simply José Mariano Mociño, was a naturalist from New Spain.After having studied philosophy and medicine, he conducted early research on the ecology , geology, and anthropology of his country and other parts of North America.- Biography :He was born in...

, 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.http://elibrary.unm.edu/sora/Auk/v076n01/p0108-p0108.html, http://www.zoonomen.net/avtax/frame.html)

The word "quetzal" came from Nahuatl
Nahuatl
Nahuatl is thought to mean "a good, clear sound" This language name has several spellings, among them náhuatl , Naoatl, Nauatl, Nahuatl, Nawatl. In a back formation from the name of the language, the ethnic group of Nahuatl speakers are called Nahua...

 (Aztec), where quetzalli (from the root
Root (linguistics)
The root word is the primary lexical unit of a word, and of a word family , which carries the most significant aspects of semantic content and cannot be reduced into smaller constituents....

 quetz = "stand") meant "tall upstanding plume" and then "quetzal tail feather"; from that Nahuatl quetzaltotōtl means "quetzal-feather bird" and thus "quetzal".

Description

This species is 36 to 40 cm (14.2 to 15.7 in) long, plus up to 65 cm (25.6 in) of tail streamer for the male, and weighs about 210 g (7 oz). It is the largest representative of the trogon
Trogon
The trogons and quetzals are birds in the order Trogoniformes which contains only one family, the Trogonidae. The family contains 39 species in eight genera. The fossil record of the trogons dates back 49 million years to the mid-Eocene. They might constitute a member of the basal radiation of...

 order. The subspecies costaricensis is slightly smaller than the nominate race and has shorter narrower tail plumes.

Resplendent Quetzals have a green body (showing iridescence
Iridescence
Iridescence is generally known as the property of certain surfaces which appear to change color as the angle of view or the angle of illumination changes...

 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. 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 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

Their habitat is montane cloud forest
Cloud forest
A cloud forest, also called a fog forest, is a generally tropical or subtropical evergreen montane moist forest characterized by a persistent, frequent or seasonal low-level cloud cover, usually at the canopy level. Cloud forests often exhibit an abundance of mosses covering the ground and...

s of Central America
Central America
Central America is the central geographic region of the Americas. It is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. When considered part of the unified continental model, it is considered a subcontinent...

 (from Southern Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 to Panama
Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

).

Behavior

Resplendent Quetzals are weak fliers. Their known predators include the Ornate Hawk-eagle and owl
Owl
Owls are a group of birds that belong to the order Strigiformes, constituting 200 bird of prey species. Most are solitary and nocturnal, with some exceptions . Owls hunt mostly small mammals, insects, and other birds, although a few species specialize in hunting fish...

s as adults, Emerald Toucanet
Emerald Toucanet
The Emerald Toucanet, Aulacorhynchus prasinus, is a near-passerine bird occurring in mountainous regions from Mexico, through Central America, to northern Venezuela and along the Andes as far south as central Bolivia...

s, Brown Jay
Brown Jay
The Brown Jay is a large American Jay which has the habitus of a magpie, but is slightly smaller and with a shorter tail, though the bill is larger.It occurs from Mexico south into Central America on the Gulf slope...

s, Long-tailed Weasel
Long-tailed Weasel
The long-tailed weasel , also known as the bridled weasel or big stoat is a species of mustelid distributed from southern Canada throughout all the United States and Mexico, southward through all of Central America and into northern South America.-Evolution:The long-tailed weasel is the product of...

s, squirrel
Squirrel
Squirrels belong to a large family of small or medium-sized rodents called the Sciuridae. The family includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots , flying squirrels, and prairie dogs. Squirrels are indigenous to the Americas, Eurasia, and Africa and have been introduced to Australia...

s, and the Kinkajou
Kinkajou
The kinkajou , also known as the honey bear , is a rainforest mammal of the family Procyonidae related to olingos, coatis, raccoons, and the ringtail and cacomistle. It is the only member of the genus Potos. Kinkajous may be mistaken for ferrets or monkeys, but are not closely related...

 as nestlings or eggs.

Feeding

Resplendent Quetzals are considered specialized fruit-eater
Frugivore
A frugivore is a fruit eater. It can be any type of herbivore or omnivore where fruit is a preferred food type. Because approximately 20% of all mammalian herbivores also eat fruit, frugivory is considered to be common among mammals. Since frugivores eat a lot of fruit they are highly dependent...

s, although they mix their diet with insect
Insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

s (notably wasp
Wasp
The term wasp is typically defined as any insect of the order Hymenoptera and suborder Apocrita that is neither a bee nor an ant. Almost every pest insect species has at least one wasp species that preys upon it or parasitizes it, making wasps critically important in natural control of their...

s, ant
Ant
Ants are social insects of the family Formicidae and, along with the related wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera. Ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors in the mid-Cretaceous period between 110 and 130 million years ago and diversified after the rise of flowering plants. More than...

s, and larva
Larva
A larva is a distinct juvenile form many animals undergo before metamorphosis into adults. Animals with indirect development such as insects, amphibians, or cnidarians typically have a larval phase of their life cycle...

e) and frog
Frog
Frogs are amphibians in the order Anura , formerly referred to as Salientia . Most frogs are characterized by a short body, webbed digits , protruding eyes and the absence of a tail...

s. Particularly important are wild avocado
Avocado
The avocado is a tree native to Central Mexico, classified in the flowering plant family Lauraceae along with cinnamon, camphor and bay laurel...

s and other fruit of the laurel family
Lauraceae
The Lauraceae or Laurel family comprises a group of flowering plants included in the order Laurales. The family contains about 55 genera and over 3500, perhaps as many as 4000, species world-wide, mostly from warm or tropical regions, especially Southeast Asia and South America...

, which the birds swallow whole before regurgitating the pits, which helps to disperse these trees.

Breeding

Resplendent Quetzals usually live alone when not breeding. They are monogamous territorial breeders, with the territory
Territory (animal)
In ethology the term territory refers to any sociographical area that an animal of a particular species consistently defends against conspecifics...

 size being measured in Guatemala as 6-10 ha. 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. 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
Decomposition
Decomposition is the process by which organic material is broken down into simpler forms of matter. The process is essential for recycling the finite matter that occupies physical space in the biome. Bodies of living organisms begin to decompose shortly after death...

 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
Fern
A fern is any one of a group of about 12,000 species of plants belonging to the botanical group known as Pteridophyta. Unlike mosses, they have xylem and phloem . They have stems, leaves, and roots like other vascular plants...

 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
Berry
The botanical definition of a berry is a fleshy fruit produced from a single ovary. Grapes are an example. The berry is the most common type of fleshy fruit in which the entire ovary wall ripens into an edible pericarp. They may have one or more carpels with a thin covering and fleshy interiors....

, insects, lizard
Lizard
Lizards are a widespread group of squamate reptiles, with nearly 3800 species, ranging across all continents except Antarctica as well as most oceanic island chains...

s, 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

The Resplendent Quetzal is classed as near threatened
Near Threatened
Near Threatened is a conservation status assigned to species or lower taxa that may be considered threatened with extinction in the near future, although it does not currently qualify for the threatened status...

 on the IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species , founded in 1963, is the world's most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature is the world's main authority on the conservation status of species...

.

Myth and legend

The Resplendent Quetzal was considered divine, associated with the "snake god", Quetzalcoatl
Quetzalcoatl
Quetzalcoatl is a Mesoamerican deity whose name comes from the Nahuatl language and has the meaning of "feathered serpent". The worship of a feathered serpent deity is first documented in Teotihuacan in the first century BCE or first century CE...

 by Pre-Columbian
Pre-Columbian
The pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences on the American continents, spanning the time of the original settlement in the Upper Paleolithic period to European colonization during...

 Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica is a region and culture area in the Americas, extending approximately from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, within which a number of pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 15th and...

n civilizations. Its iridescent
Iridescence
Iridescence is generally known as the property of certain surfaces which appear to change color as the angle of view or the angle of illumination changes...

 green tail feathers, symbols for spring plant growth, were venerated by the ancient Aztec
Aztec
The Aztec people were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a period referred to as the late post-classic period in Mesoamerican chronology.Aztec is the...

s and Maya
Maya civilization
The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period The Maya is a Mesoamerican...

, 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
Mesoamerican languages
Mesoamerican languages are the languages indigenous to the Mesoamerican cultural area, which covers southern Mexico, all of Guatemala and Belize and parts of Honduras and El Salvador. The area is characterized by extensive linguistic diversity containing several hundred different languages and...

, the term for quetzal can also mean precious, sacred, or erected.

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. For this reason it is a traditional symbol of liberty
Freedom (political)
Political freedom is a central philosophy in Western history and political thought, and one of the most important features of democratic societies...

. However, a zoo in Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 has kept this species since 1992, and in 2004 breeding in captivity
Captive breeding
Captive breedingis the process of breeding animals in human controlled environments with restricted settings, such as wildlife reserves, zoos and other conservation facilities; sometimes the process is construed to include release of individual organisms to the wild, when there is sufficient...

 was announced (Orellana, 2004).

The bird is of great relevance to Guatemalan culture, being a character in the widely popular legend of the local hero Tecún Umán
Tecún Umán
Tecún Umán was the last ruler and king of the K'iche' Maya people, in the highlands of what is now Guatemala...

, a prince and warrior of the Quiché (K'iche') Maya during the latter stages of the Spanish conquest of the region
Spanish conquest of Yucatán
The Spanish conquest of Yucatán was the campaign undertaken by the Spanish conquistadores against the Late Postclassic Maya states and polities, particularly in the northern and central Yucatán Peninsula but also involving the Maya polities of the Guatemalan highlands region...

. This quetzal was his nahual
Nagual
In Mesoamerican folk religion, a Nagual or Nahual is a human being who has the power to magically turn him- or herself into an animal form: most commonly a donkey, turkey, or dog, but also other and more powerful animals such as the jaguar and puma.Such a Nagual is believed to use his powers for...

(spirit guide). The Quiché repelled several attacks from the Spanish
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 army, even though outmatched in weaponry (guns, armor and cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 against spear
Spear
A spear is a pole weapon consisting of a shaft, usually of wood, with a pointed head.The head may be simply the sharpened end of the shaft itself, as is the case with bamboo spears, or it may be made of a more durable material fastened to the shaft, such as flint, obsidian, iron, steel or...

s and arrow
Arrow
An arrow is a shafted projectile that is shot with a bow. It predates recorded history and is common to most cultures.An arrow usually consists of a shaft with an arrowhead attached to the front end, with fletchings and a nock at the other.- History:...

s).

Legend has it that on the day the conquistador
Conquistador
Conquistadors were Spanish soldiers, explorers, and adventurers who brought much of the Americas under the control of Spain in the 15th to 16th centuries, following Europe's discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1492...

 Pedro de Alvarado
Pedro de Alvarado
Pedro de Alvarado y Contreras was a Spanish conquistador and governor of Guatemala. He participated in the conquest of Cuba, in Juan de Grijalva's exploration of the coasts of Yucatan and the Gulf of Mexico, and in the conquest of Mexico led by Hernan Cortes...

 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. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Pharomachrus_mocinno.html

It is debatable whether these events happened, but the Maya fought fiercely for their land and freedom during the conquest. One Mayan legend
Maya mythology
Mayan mythology is part of Mesoamerican mythology and comprises all of the Mayan tales in which personified forces of nature, deities, and the heroes interacting with these play the main roles...

 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.

Sources

(A Resplendent Quetzal chick hatched at the Miguel Álvarez del Toro Zoo, Tuxtla Gutiérrez
Tuxtla Gutiérrez
Tuxtla Gutiérrez is the capital and largest city of the Mexican state of Chiapas. It is considered to be the state’s most modern city, with most of its public buildings dating from the 20th century. One exception to this is the San Marcos Cathedral which began as a Dominican parish church built in...

, Chiapas
Chiapas
Chiapas officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Chiapas is one of the 31 states that, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 118 municipalities and its capital city is Tuxtla Gutierrez. Other important cites in Chiapas include San Cristóbal de las...

, Mexico, and reached the age of six weeks at the time of the report. A short excerpt is visible on a Google search page.)

External links

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