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The legendary Quetzal of Mesoamerica

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The legendary Quetzal of Mesoamerica

The quetzal is an iconic bird of Central America, particularly for its connection with the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl. Its bright green plumage with iridescent tones have made many classify it as one of the most beautiful birds in the world. Although in general it is out of danger of extinction, the destruction of its natural habitat threatens the shining quetzal.

The Quetzalcoatl Legend

The quetzal takes its name from the legend of Quetzalcoatl. This was a Mesoamerican deity venerated from the year 1 BC to around 1500 A.D. Name Quetzalcoatl means “feathered serpent” in Nahuatl, spoken by the Aztecs in Central America.

Quetzalcoatl was the main God of the Aztec worldview. The rulers and the nobility wore headdresses made with the bright green feathers of the quetzal, which, symbolically, connected them with God. It was considered a crime to kill this bird, so the feathers were obtained by capturing it, plucking its long feathers from its tail and then releasing it.

Classification and habitat

The quetzales are birds of the family Trogonidae, genus Pharomachrus, that inhabit tropical forests around the world. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, this bird inhabits from southern Mexico to the Bolivian Amazon.

The quetzals are distinguished by their long tail and iridescent green color. These birds feed mainly on insects and fruit, and have arboreal habits.

Varieties of species

There are five different types of quetzales, all native to the American continent.

Golden Head Quetzal (P. auriceps)

This species is known for its bright green color that contrasts with the golden head. This bird is relatively common in central and South America, where it lives in humid forests. It feeds mainly on fruits and, to a lesser extent, insects. Like other quetzals, they are solitary birds that only gather in the reproductive season.

Quetzal bird Pharomachrus auriceps.

Bulgarian quetzal or golden quetzal(P. fulgidus)

This species lives mainly in humid and cloud forests of the Caribbean coast in Colombia, Guyana and Venezuela. As in other quetzals, only the male has distinctive colors: The golden yellow beak and bright green feathers are characteristic. It feeds on fruits, berries and insects.

Crested quetzal (P. antisianus)

This bird lives in pristine forests in the Andes between 1200 and 3000 meters high. The male’s head and neck are turquoise metallic, while the trunk is vibrant red.

As in the case of other quetzales, females are dull in color, mainly brown and green. These specimens are distinguished mainly by the characteristic crest of adult males.. The crest grows just above the peak.

Pavonino Quetzal (P. pavoninus)

Also known as “red-beaked widow”, This is one of the quetzales that least resembles the well-known shining quetzal. This bird is native to the Amazon River basin, between Venezuela, Colombia and Bolivia; and it is the only one of its kind that lives east of the Andean mountain range.

This species has bright colors, particularly in males.. These exhibit a bright red beak, while females have a more muted color.

Glowing Quetzal (P. mocinno)

Mesoamerican Quetzal

The resplendent quetzal is an iconic bird from central and South America. In fact, It is the national bird of Guatemala and gives its currency its name. There are two subspecies, P. m. costaricensis Y P. m. mocinno

It has an iridescent green body and red chest. Depending on the light, the quetzales glow green, cobalt, yellow and even blue. This bird is distinguished by its long tail, which can reach more than 60 centimeters.

An endangered species

Of the five species of quetzal, four are not considered endangered.Now, the shining quetzal is listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “almost threatened.”

On the other hand, the US North American Bird Conservation Initiative. UU. (NABCI) also includes the Resplendent quetzal in its “Watch List” as a kind of major conservation concern.

Today, The biggest threat to this spectacular bird is the loss of its natural habitat. Deforestation, forest fragmentation and agricultural logging are the main risk factors for glowing quetzal.

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