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Picture by Cynthia Weeden. Jan 2004.

Resplendent Quetzal

Quetzal is derived from the Aztec words for bird feathers, precious and beautiful. The size of a small, pigeon-like bird, the male owns an amazing meter-long tail along with a short head crest, and red breast. Although the female is duller in color and with no tail plumes, both sexes head, back and wings are emerald green. This allows the bird to blend with the foliage of the cloud forest where it lives. The Quetzal lives at elevations as low as 1,300m and as high as 3,000m in Costa Rica's cloud forests. Its diet consists mainly of wild figs, avocados, insects, small frogs and lizards. Drinking water is obtained from the base of bromeliads. When the bird detects an intruder, it will sit motionless for long periods of time. When further threatened, it will let out an alarm cry, that is a harsh weec-weec sound accompanied by quickly flicking its tail feathers like a fan every second. During courtship, the males will perform spiraling skyward flights, then dive back to the canopy. Between March and June, paired quetzals use rotten tree stumps for nests, in the lower part of the forest canopy but never on or near the ground; favoring those stumps with holes made by other birds or animals. They usually produce two eggs that are light blue in color. The work of nest building, incubation and care of the young are shared by the pair. The area around the nest tree is protected by the male sounding a two-toned whistle which he repeats every 8 to 10 minutes in the morning and again at dusk. See recent guest letters.
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