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A photo of a Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno), male
Resplendent Quetzal, Male

Resplendent Quetzal

Pharomachrus mocinno

The resplendent quetzal, a member of the trogon family, is a bird of arresting beauty and vibrant colors. The male is particularly striking with iridescent green plumage, a vivid red breast and belly, and a helmet-like crest. Its tail feathers are remarkably long, often exceeding the length of its body. The female, though less flamboyant, has her own subtle charm with grey underparts and a bronze-green head.

Identification Tips

To identify the resplendent quetzal, look for the male's shimmering green back and red underparts. The tail is exceptionally long with white undertail coverts. Females are more subdued with grey breasts and bellies, and shorter tails. Both sexes have large eyes suited to their dim forest habitat.


These birds favor the montane cloud forests of Central America, thriving amidst the dense canopy and subcanopy layers. They are also known to inhabit areas near ravines and cliffs.


The resplendent quetzal ranges from southern Mexico to western Panama. It is divided into two subspecies: P. m. mocinno found in Mexico and Central America, and P. m. costaricensis in Costa Rica and western Panama.


Quetzals are generally shy and elusive, using their plumage to blend into the canopy. During breeding season, they become more vocal and display elaborate courtship behaviors. They are altitudinal migrants, moving from the slopes to the canopy during breeding.

Song & Calls

The quetzal's song is a series of melodious slurred notes, including keow, kowee, and keeloo. Their calls vary, with some associated with territorial behavior and others with mating.


Quetzals are monogamous and territorial during breeding. They nest in hollows high in decaying trees, with both parents sharing incubation duties. The female lays one to three pale blue eggs, which hatch in about 17 to 19 days.

Similar Species

The crested quetzal is often considered a close relative and may be confused with the resplendent quetzal. However, the crested has distinct differences in plumage and size.

Diet and Feeding

The resplendent quetzal's diet is primarily fruit, especially from the laurel family. They also consume insects, lizards, frogs, and snails. Their feeding technique includes hovering and stalling to pluck fruit from branch tips.

Conservation status

The resplendent quetzal is classified as Near Threatened due to habitat destruction and fragmentation. While some populations are stable or increasing, overall numbers are in decline. Conservation efforts focus on protecting their cloud forest habitat.

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Resplendent Quetzal Fun Facts

Did you know?
The Resplendent Quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala

Resplendent Quetzals on Birda


More Trogons

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