Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Resplendent quetzal

Pharomachrus mocinno

Photo by Matteo Piccinini (Flickr)

Common name:
resplendent quetzal (en); quetzal-resplandecente (pt); quetzal resplendissant (fr); quetzal mesoamericano (es); quetzal (de)

Order Trogoniformes
Family Trogonidae

Unlike the other quetzal species, which are only found in South America, the resplendent quetzal is an inhabitant of Central America, occuring from southern Mexico to western Panama.

The largest species in the trogon family, the resplendent quetzal measures 36 cm in lenght. The males have an impressive tail that can grow up to 64 cm. These birds have a wingspan of 40 cm and can weight up to 210 g.

The typical habitat are the cloudy mountains of Central America, where they can be found in the canopy and sub-canopy, in undisturbed, humid and epiphyte-laden forests. They require the presence of rotting trees, where they carve holes to nest. This species can also be found in vegetated ravines and cliffs, and in open areas with scattered trees adjacent to forests. They are present at altitudes of 900-3200 m.

A specialized fruit eater, the resplendent quetzal may also include insects, small amphibians, lizards and snails in its diet. They mostly eat wild avocados and other fruits of the laurel family. They swallow the fruits whole, after which they regurgitate the pits, thus helping to disperse the trees.

The nests is built on a hole carved in a tree. The female lays 2 pale blue eggs which are incubated by both parents for 18 days. The male mostly incubates during the day, while the female incubates during the night. After hatching, the parents both take care of the young, feeding them pieces of fruits and small animals. It is not uncommon for the female to abandon the young near the end of the rearing period, leaving it up to the male to continue caring for their offspring until fledging.

IUCN status - NT (Near-Threatened)
With a total population estimated at 20.000-50.000, the resplendent quetzal is threatened by widespread deforestation in most of its range. This causes habitat fragmentation and destruction, especially at lower altitudes, where the species lives outside the breeding period. Direct persecution may still occur in some areas, particularly southern Mexico, but appears to have reduced.

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