Species profile

Name: quetzals are a group of strikingly coloured birds. The name quetzal used to refer to one species – the resplendent quetzal – although there are now five other species recognised: crested, golden-headed, white-tipped, pavonine, and the eared quetzal.

Appearance: quetzals are easily recognised by their incredibly coloured feathers. The males are covered with a shimmering iridescent green although the females are a less spectacular brown or grey.

Size: they are fairly large birds with long tails reaching around 30 cm long.

Diet: quetzals feed on fruits, berries, insects, and frogs.

Did you know: in South and Central American cultures the resplendent quetzal was considered to be divine and associated with the snake god Quetzalcoatl. Their long green tail feathers were symbols of growth and venerated by the ancient Aztecs and Maya who viewed the quetzal as the ‘god of the air’ and as a symbol of goodness and light. The Maya also viewed the quetzal as symbolizing freedom and wealth. Rulers and nobility wore headdresses made from quetzal feathers. Since it was a crime to kill a quetzal, they were captured, their long tail feathers plucked, and then set free.

Location: quetzals are found in the cloud forests of Central and South America. One species – the eared quetzal – is found in Mexico and in small parts of the southern United States.

Where to see Quetzals

According to reports submitted to WildSide, you can see quetzals in the following places:

Place Chance to see User rating No. reports
Costa Rica
very low
very good

Photo credit: Tim De Decker under a Creative Commons licence from Flickr

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