Our Beautiful World

Trogons and quetzals , Trogonidae

Narina Trogon, Apaloderma narina
Resplendent Quetzal, Pharomachrus mocinno

Poring Hot Springs, Sabah, Malaysia - Sep, 2005
© Leif Gabrielsen

The trogons and quetzals are birds in the order Trogoniformes which contains only one family, the Trogonidae. The family
contains 39 species in eight genera.The word "trogon" is Greek for "nibbling" and refers to the fact that these birds gnaw holes
in trees to make their nests.

Trogons are residents of tropical forests worldwide, with the greatest diversity in the Neotropics. The genus Apaloderma contains
the three African species, Harpactes and Apalharpactes are Asian, and the remaining four genera are found in Central and South

They feed on insects and fruit, and their broad bills and weak legs reflect their diet and arboreal habits. Although their flight is fast,
they are reluctant to fly any distance. Trogons are generally not migratory, although some species undertake partial local movements.

Trogons have soft, often colourful, feathers with distinctive male and female plumage. They are the only type of animal with a
heterodactyl toe arrangement.

The trogons are insectivorous, usually hunting from a perch. They nest in holes dug into trees or termite nests, laying 2-4 white or
pastel-coloured eggs.

The majority of trogons are birds of tropical and subtropical forests. They have a cosmopolitan distribution in the worlds wet
tropics, being found in the Americas, Africa and Asia. A few species are distributed into the temperate zone, with one species,
the Elegant Trogon, reaching the south of the United States specifically southern Arizona and the surrounding area. The Narina Trogon of Africa is slightly exceptional in that it utilises a wider range of habitats than any other trogon, ranging from dense forest
to fairly open savannah, and from the Equator to southern South Africa. It is the most widespread and successful of all the trogons.
The Eared Quetzal of Mexico is also able to use more xeric habitats, but preferentially inhabits forests. Most other species are
more restricted in their habitat, with several species being restricted to undisturbed primary forest. Within forests they tend to be
found in the mid story, occasionally in the canopy.

Red-headed Trogon, Harpactes erythrocephalus,
Khao Yai National Park, Pak Chong, Thailand

Photo: JJ Harrison

Some species, particularly the quetzals, are adapted to cooler montane forest. There are a number of insular species; these include
a number of species found in the Greater Sundas, one species in the Philippines as well as two monophyletic genera endemic to
Cuba and Hispaniola respectively. Outside of South Asia and the Caribbean, however, trogons are generally absent from islands,
especially oceanic ones.

Trogons are generally sedentary, with no species known to undertake long migrations. A small number of species are known to
make smaller migratory movements, particularly montane species which move to lower altitudes during different seasons.
This has been demonstrated using radio tracking in the Resplendent Quetzal in Costa Rica and evidence has been accumulated for
a number of other species. The Narina Trogon of Africa is thought to undertake some localised short distance migrations over parts
of its range, for example birds of Zimbabwe's plateau savannah depart after the breeding season. A complete picture of these
movements is however lacking. Trogons are difficult to study as their thick tarsi (feet bones) make ringing studies difficult.

The trogons as a family are fairly uniform in appearance, having compact bodies and long tails (very long in the case of the quetzals),
and short necks. Trogons range in size from the 23 cm, 40 gram Scarlet-rumped Trogon to the 40 cm, 210 gram Resplendent Quetzal (not including the male quetzal's 0.91 m tail streamers). Their legs and feet are weak and short, and trogons are essentially
unable to walk beyond a very occasional shuffle along a branch. They are even incapable of turning around on a branch without
using their wings. The ratio of leg muscle to body weight in trogons is only 3 percent, the lowest known ratio of any bird.

Trogons, Trogon collaris (two left pictures) and Trogon massena, Costa Rica.
Photo: © Vladimir Dinets

The arrangement of toes on the feet of trogons is also unique amongst birds, although essentially resembling the zygodactyl’s two
forward two backward arrangement of parrots and other near-passerines, the actual toes are arranged with usually inner hallux
being the outer hind toe, an arrangement that is referred to as heterodactylous. The strong bill is short and the gape wide,
particularly in the fruit eating quetzals, with a slight hook at the end. The African trogons are generally green on the back with red
bellies. The New World trogons similarly have green or deep blue upperparts but are more varied in their lowerparts. The Asian
species tend towards red underparts and brown backs.

The wings are short but strong, with the wing muscle ratio being around 22% of the body weight. In spite of the strength of
their flight, trogons do not fly often or for great distances, generally flying no more than a few hundred metres at a time.
Only the montane species tend to make long distance flights. Shorter flights tend to be direct and swift, but longer flights are
slightly undulating. Their flight can be surprisingly silent (for observers), although that of a few species is reportedly quite noisy.

Order Trogoniformes

Engelsk Norsk Latinsk
Bare-cheeked Trogon Gulkinntrogon Apaloderma aequatoriale
Narina Trogon Narinatrogon Apaloderma narina
Bar-tailed Trogon Blåbeltetrogon Apaloderma vittatum
Eared Quetzal (Eared Trogon) Øreketsal Euptilotis neoxenus
Philippine Trogon Rosenbrysttrogon Harpactes ardens
Diard's Trogon Rosenringtrogon Harpactes diardii
Scarlet-rumped Trogon Rødgumptrogon Harpactes duvaucelii
Red-headed Trogon Rødhodetrogon Harpactes erythrocephalus
Malabar Trogon Hindutrogon Harpactes fasciatus
Red-naped Trogon Rødnakketrogon Harpactes kasumba
Sumatran Trogon Sumatratrogon Harpactes mackloti
Orange-breasted Trogon Olivenhodetrogon Harpactes oreskios
Cinnamon-rumped Trogon Kaneltrogon Harpactes orrhophaeus
Javan (Blue-tailed) Trogon) Blåhaletrogon Harpactes reinwardtii
Ward's Trogon Rosenbryntrogon Harpactes wardi
Whitehead's Trogon Rødhettetrogon Harpactes whiteheadi
Crested Quetzal Krøllketsal Pharomachrus antisianus
Golden-headed Quetzal Svarthaleketsal Pharomachrus auriceps
White-tipped Quetzal Bronsekroneketsal Pharomachrus fulgidus
Resplendent Quetzal Praktketsal Pharomachrus mocinno
Resplendent Quetzal   Pharomachrus mocinno mocinno
Resplendent Quetzal   Pharomachrus mocinno
Pavonine Quetzal Amazonketsal Pharomachrus pavoninus
Hispaniolan Trogon Hispaniolatrogon Priotelus roseigaster
Cuban Trogon Kvasthaletrogon Priotelus temnurus
Orange-bellied Trogon Ildbuktrogon Trogon aurantiiventris
Baird's Trogon Blåryggtrogon Trogon bairdii
Gartered Trogon   Trogon caligatus
White-tailed Trogon   Trogon chionurus
Citreoline Trogon Guløyetrogon Trogon citreolus
Lattice-tailed Trogon Netthaletrogon Trogon clathratus
Collared Trogon Båndtrogon Trogon collaris
White-eyed Trogon Hvitøyetrogon Trogon comptus
Blue-crowned Trogon Blåkronetrogon Trogon curucui
Elegant Trogon Fagertrogon Trogon elegans
Slaty-tailed Trogon Oransjenebbtrogon Trogon massena
Black-headed Trogon Svarthodetrogon Trogon melanocephalus
Black-tailed Trogon Svarthaletrogon Trogon melanurus
Ecuadorian Trogon   Trogon mesurus
Mountain Trogon Mexicotrogon Trogon mexicanus
Masked Trogon Masketrogon Trogon personatus
Black-throated Trogon Edeltrogon Trogon rufus
Surucua Trogon Surucuatrogon Trogon surrucura
   Brazilian Trogon   Trogon surrucura aurantius
Violaceous Trogon Gulbrilletrogon Trogon violaceus
   Amazonian Trogon   Trogon violaceus ramonianus
Green-backed Trogon
also previous White-tailed Trogon
  Trogon viridis

Narina Trogon, Apaloderma narina

Adult male Narina Trogon, Apaloderma narina, perched in Pigeonwood.
Photo: Patty McGann

The Narina Trogon, Apaloderma narina, is a medium-sized (up to 34 cm long), largely green forest bird in the Trogonidae family.
It is the most widespread and catholic in habitat choice of three Apaloderma trogons. The species name is Khoikhoi in origin,
believed to be named after Narina, the mistress of the French ornithologist François Le Vaillant.

Both sexes have vivid, gingery green upperpart plumage. The tail feathers have a metallic blue-green gloss. The outer three rectices
on each side are tipped and fringed white, giving the undertail of perched birds a characteristic white appearance The wing coverts
are a grizzled grey, and remiges mostly colourless grey.

The male especially, has bright amaranth red underside plumage and bare, green gape and eye flanges. The female has brown face
and chest plumage, blue skin orbiting the eyes and duller red plumage below. Immature birds resemble females, but have distinct
white tips to the tertials (inner wing), and less distinct gape and eye flanges.

The species has a large range in Africa, inhabiting lowland to highland, valley and riparian forests, from tropical to temperate regions,
those occurring in highlands dispersing seasonally to lower levels. It is found from Sierra Leone to Ethiopia, and east Africa to
eastern and southern South Africa.

The diet consists mainly of insects and small invertebrates as well as rodents and small reptiles. They nest in a tree hollow in
which both sexes incubate or brood.

Resplendent Quetzal, Pharomachrus mocinno

A male Resplendent Quetzal, Costa Rica
Photo: Dick Bos

The Resplendent Quetzal, Pharomachrus mocinno, is a bird in the trogon family. It is found from southern Mexico to western
Panama (unlike the other quetzals of the genus Pharomachrus, which are found in South America and eastern Panama). It is well
known for its colorful plumage. There are two subspecies, Pharomachrus mocinno mocinno and Pharomachrus mocinno

This quetzal plays an important role in Mesoamerican mythologies. The Resplendent Quetzal is Guatemala's national bird, and an
image of it is on the flag and coat of arms of Guatemala. It is also the name of the local currency (abbreviation GTQ).

This species is 36–40 cm long, plus up to 65 cm of tail streamer for the male, and weighs about 210 g. It is the largest representative
of the trogon order. The subspecies costaricensis is slightly smaller than the nominate race and has shorter narrower tail plumes.

Resplendent Quetzals have a green body (showing iridescence from green-gold to blue-violet) and red breast. Their green upper tail
coverts hide their tails and in breeding males are particularly splendid, being longer than the rest of the body. The primary wing
coverts are also unusually long and give a fringed appearance. The male has a helmet-like crest. The bill, which is partly covered by
green filamentous feathers, is yellow in mature males and black in females.

Their habitat is montane cloud forests of Central America (from Southern Mexico to Panama).

Resplendent Quetzals are weak fliers. Their known predators include the Ornate Hawk-eagle and owls as adults,
Emerald Toucanets, Brown Jays, Long-tailed Weasels, squirrels, and the Kinkajou as nestlings or eggs.

ARKive video - Resplendent quetzal feeding on wild avocados
Resplendent quetzal feeding on wild avocados
BBC Natural History Unit & BBC Natural History Sound Library

Resplendent Quetzals are considered specialized fruit-eaters, although they mix their diet with insects (notably wasps, ants, and
larvae), frogs and lizards. Particularly important are wild avocados and other fruit of the laurel family, which the birds swallow
whole before regurgitating the pits, which helps to disperse these trees.

Resplendent Quetzals usually live alone when not breeding. They are monogamous territorial breeders, with the territory size being
measured in Guatemala as 6-10 ha. They are also seasonal breeders, with the breeding season being March to April in Mexico,
May to June in El Salvador and March to May in Guatemala. When breeding, females lay two pale blue eggs in a nest placed in
a hole which they carve in a rotten tree. A tree in the required stage of decomposition is susceptible to weather damage, and the
availability of suitable trees may limit the Resplendent Quetzal population.

Resplendent quetzal, Pharomachrus mocinno
Photo: D.Hatcher,

Both parents take turns at incubating, with their long tail-covert feathers folded forwards over the back and out of the hole,
where they tend to look like a bunch of fern growing out of the hole. The incubation period lasts about 18 days, during which
the male generally incubates the eggs during the day while the female incubates them at night. When the eggs hatch, both parents
take care of the young, feeding them fruit, berries, insects, lizards, and small frogs. However, the female often neglects and even
abandons the young near the end of the rearing period, leaving it up to the male to continue caring for the offspring until they are
ready to survive on their own.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resplendent_Quetzal


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