Resplendent Quetzal

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image: resplequetzal.jpg

Common Name: Resplendent Quetzal
Scientific Name: Pharomachrus mocinno

Size: 17½ -18 inches (45 cm)

Habitat: North America; Southern Mexico to Panama. Found in the montane cloud forests

Status: Near Threatened. Global Population: 20,000-49,999 Mature individuals. Populations continue to decline, owing largely to widespread deforestation throughout its range. The main problem for the Costa Rican Monteverde population is the fragmentation and destruction of forests to which it descends in the non-breeding season. This is probably applicable to many populations. Some poaching probably still occurs, particularly in south Mexico, but this appears to have diminished. Although it is an important symbol for conservation in Central America, and reserves have been established to facilitate its protection, these tend to be small and include limited representations of critical habitat.

Diet: Fruits, especially wild avocados and laurel fruit, some wasps, ants, larvae and small frogs.

Nesting: Quetzals live alone except during breeding season. Females carve a hole in the rotten tree and built a nest within. She then lays two pale blue eggs and both parents take turns at incubating. Often one sees their long tail-covert feathers hanging out of the nest cavity. Incubation lasts about 18 days with the male incubating the eggs during the day and the female at night. Both parents take parts providing food to their young. Female often neglects and sometimes abandons their young before fledging, leaving it up to the male to continue care until the young are ready to survive on their own.

Cool Facts: The Resplendent Quetzal plays an important role in Mesoamerican culture. The Resplendent Quetzal was considered divine and associated with the "feathered serpent god", Quetzalcoatl by Mixtec, Toltec, Aztec, Teotihuacan and Mayan civilizations. In several Mesoamerican languages, the term for quetzal means precious, sacred, or erected. Rulers and nobility used Quetzal feathers to adorn their headdresses which symbolically connecting them to Quetzalcoatl. In these cultures, it was a crime punishable by death to kill a quetzal. Birds were captured, their long tail feathers plucked, and then set free.

Mayans: The first sound engineers? In the city of Chichen Itza, the Mayan Temple of Kukulkan contains a series of oddly high, narrow steps. An acoustician, David Lubman, discovered that if you stand in front of the staircase and clap your hands, the returned echoed sound is reminiscent of the descending chirp of the Resplendent Quetzal. Modern day Mayans who are familiar with this echo, often refer to it as "la cola del Quetzal," or the Quetzal’s tail. It is not inconceivable that the ancient Maya may have experienced this picket-fence effect from another staircase and refined the spacing of the stairs to match the pitch of the Quetzal, but of course without written evidence, this may forever remain fascinating speculation.

Quetzals are important in Avocado and laurel seed dispersal; the birds swallow the fruit whole before regurgitating the pits, which in turn disperse the seeds for these trees.

Found in Songbird ReMix Yucatan

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