Visitors to Trogon Lodge and the area of San Gerardo de Dota, even those who are not avid birdwatchers, are amazed when they get to observe a Resplendent Quetzal (pronounced ket-sal) considered as one of the most gorgeous birds in the New World, and sacred bird to the Mayans, that inhabits this area year round.
With its metallic green plumage, crimson breast and belly and its incredible streamer-like feathers, watching a maleQuetzal in its magical fly, is a unique, breathtaking experience.
Quetzals can be found in the forest of Central America, from the south of México to Panama. Scientists recognize two sub-species: Pharomachrus mocinno moccino, found in the south of México, Guatemala and some regions of El Salvador & Honduras, and the Pharamochrus mocinno costarricencis, in the south of Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the North of Panamá. Of all the countries where quetzals are found, the best chance to see them in the wild is probably in Costa Rica, where elevated cloud forests harbor important populations of the species.
In the past, indigenous populations of the New World admired the beauty and grandness of the Quetzal and were frequently represented next to their Gods, in sculptures. The Mayans called the Quetzal KUKUL, it was their Holy Bird. In the Aztec mythology, there was Quetzalcoatl, "The Feathered Serpent". The nobility of these indigenous groups used the bird’s long streamer-like feathers for headdresses and cloaks. Chroniclers report that they did not kill the birds for the feathers instead caught them alive, had the plumes removed, and then returned them to the wild to grow new ones.
Quetzals belong to the Trogonidae family. Feeding habitats of all members of this family are very similar. They eat mainly berries, wild figs and avocados, from the wild avocado tree, but they also feed from insects and few lizards.
The Quetzal plucks fruit off the avocado tree while flying, and then perches for a while before swallowing the entire fruit. Later, it regurgitates the seeds, and that’s why they are the only disperses of seeds for these trees, in a symbiotic relationship. Since there is a high presence of these trees in San Gerardo de Dota, available year round, it offers the bird the opportunity to remain here without needing to move from the Valley.
The breeding season is usually from late March to April. The male chooses its partner and courtships her flying high, in circles and then descends vigorously and perches in the treetops. The female usually lays two pale blue eggs, with a size of about 35 x 30 mm. Both parents incubate the egg for 17 or 18 days and young birds stay with the parents for about a month, time after which they complete the plumage and are ready to fly.