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Golden-headed Quetzal.jpg
Golden-headed quetzal
Scientific classification


Pair of quetzal figurines, 1733, hard-paste porcelain, overall: 31.8 x 9.2 x 8.3 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City)

Quetzals (/kɛtˈsɑːl, ˈkɛtsəl/) are strikingly colored birds in the trogon family.

They are found in forests, especially in humid highlands, with the five species from the genus Pharomachrus being exclusively Neotropical, while a single species, the eared quetzal, Euptilotis neoxenus, is found in Mexico and very locally in the southernmost United States.[1] Quetzals are fairly large (all over 32 cm or 13 inches long), slightly bigger than other trogon species.[2][3] The resplendent quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala because of its vibrant colour, that also represent the Guatamalan people.

Quetzals have iridescent green or golden-green wing coverts, back, chest and head, with a red belly. They are strongly sexually dimorphic, and parts of the females' plumage are brown or grey. These largely solitary birds feed on fruits, berries, insects and small vertebrates (such as frogs).[2][3] Even with their famous bright plumage, they can be hard to see in their natural wooded habitats.

Conservation status[edit]

None of the many quetzal species are under immediate threat in the wild, although the eared and resplendent quetzal are at the Near Threatened status.[4] The remaining are not considered threatened by the IUCN and all are locally common. [2][3]


The name quetzal is from Nahuatl quetzalli [keˈt͡salːi], "large brilliant tail feather" (American Audubon Dictionary) or "tail coverts of the quetzal" (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary), from the Nahuatl root quetz = "stand up" used to refer to an upstanding plume of feathers. The word entered English through Spanish.

The word quetzal was originally used for just the resplendent quetzal, the long-tailed quetzal of Guatemala, (more specifically a town called Petén) which is the national bird and the name of the currency of Guatemala. It still often refers to that bird specifically but now also names all the species of the genera Pharomachrus and Euptilotis.

Pharomachrus is from Ancient Greek φάρος pharos, "mantle", and μακρός makros, "long", referring to the wing and tail coverts of the resplendent quetzal (the second h is unexplained).

The quetzal is also known in Spanish as the pilco.[5][6]

It is also known as a symbol for Palestinian freedom, dubbed طائر الحرية الفلسطيني (Palestinian Freedom Bird) because its colors represent those of the flag of State of Palestine .[7]


Genus Pharomachrus:

Genus Euptilotis:

Euptilotis neoxenus is related to Pharomachrus and is called the eared quetzal by some authorities, such as the American Ornithologists' Union, but the eared trogon by others.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Euptilotis neoxenus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Restall, R. L., C. Rodner, & M. Lentino (2006). Birds of Northern South America. Christopher Helm. ISBN 0-7136-7243-9 (vol. 1). ISBN 0-7136-7242-0 (vol. 2).
  3. ^ a b c Ridgely, R. S., & J. A. Gwynne, Jr. (1989). A Guide to the Birds of Panama with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras. 2nd edition. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-08529-3
  4. ^ BirdLife International (2008). "Pharomachrus mocinno". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 31 October 2010.
  5. ^ Sclater, Philip Lutley (1859). "List of the first Collection of Birds made by Mr. Louis Fraser at Pallatanga, Ecuador, with Notes and Descriptions of New Species". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. Zoological Society of London. XXVII: 144.
  6. ^ "Pilco o Quetzal Cabeza Dorada" (in Spanish). Parque Nacional de Perú. 2006. Retrieved 2017-09-07.
  7. ^ "ماذا تعرف عن طائر الكويتزال "رمز الحرية الفلسطيني"" (in Arabic). Al-Watan News. 2019. Retrieved 2019-09-13.

External links[edit]