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Quetzal in the Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica.
May 2003

Resplendent Quetzal
Without a doubt, the male Quetzal is one of the most beautiful birds in the world. Restricted to the highlands of Costa Rica and part of Panama, this is definitely the main attraction of the Monteverde Cloud Forest. If you want to see it, make sure you have a guide with you because it’s surprisingly inconspicuous when perched quietly in the shade. The Quetzal lives at elevations as low as 1,300m and as high as 3,000m in the 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. The Quetzal is endangered in almost every country it inhabits owing mainly to the destruction of its habitat. Clear-cutting and logging of cloud forests removes the trees in which the birds need to nest. Illegal trading of live birds, their skins and feathers also contribute to the decline of the Resplendent Quetzal. In Costa Rica, the bird is protected in reserves at Volcán Poás, Braulio Carrillo and Chirripo National Parks and at Monteverde Forest Preserve. See Lodge information and prices.

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