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The Quetzal Bird
What is the Quetzal ?
What is the Quetzal ?
What is making the Quetzal endangered ?
What are people doing to save the Quetzal ?


Female Quetzal

Male Quetzal

The quetzal is a beautiful animal. Its scientific name is Pharomachrus mocino. Quetzals can be anywhere from 10-14 inches from bill to base of tail. The Quetzals are much larger than that though, because they have tails that may trail more than 3 feet behind their body. They weigh about 7.5 Oz. They are members of the colorful trogon family. The male Quetzals head, neck,chest, back and wings are golden green. The back is more of a blue color. The stomach and chest are a red color. On the head of the Quetzal is a golden green color. The female Quetzal are usually more brown in coloring.


Quetzals are very rare to find but can be found in Mexico, and the Central American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. They are normally found in humid subtropical areas, specifically among the moist mountain cloud forests with lush vegetables. The quetzal normally lives at an elevation of 4,000 to 10,000 feet.

Red=Quetzal Area White= Non-Quetzal area
Quetzal Area Map


The quetzals eat many things. They mostly eat fruits, berries, and vegetables, but they do eat a variety of insects, spiders, frogs and lizards. The quetzals preffered food are various plants in the laurel family. But, researchers have found that quetzals eat food from nearly four dozen species of plants.


The quetzal has a very interesting way of mating. The male Quetzal shows of his tail with various actions. The female notices this. The female and male mate and look for a a nest in a natural cavity in a tree trunk. In February through April the female will lay either one or two eggs. The male and female take turns entering the nest over the eighteen day incubation. After the birth the female and male feed the baby insects, larvae and worms. The young can fly 20 days after birth and they abandon the nest to fly freely through the skies. The Quetzal cannot live in a cage or captivity which is one of the reasons why it is not kept in zoos.

Cultural Significance

The Quetzal was very important to the Indians of ancient Mexico and Central America. The quetzal cannot live in captivity so, the Quetzal became a symbol of freedom and liberty. The Quetzals great green feathers symbolized fertility. Only nobles and priests could wear Quetzal feathers. Anyone else who wore them or killed a Quetzal would be put to death! The Quetzal is also related to Quetzalcoatl, who is the Mexican wind god and cultural hero. His name comes from the Nahuatl quetzalli meaning tail feather, like the long tail feather of the Quetzal. The Quetzal his royal bird, symbolized the cloud. In modern days, the country of Guatemala declared the Quetzal its national bird because of its beauty and symbol of freedom. It has also named its national currency, the Quetzal.

Aztec Headress- Made of Quetzal feathers