Seeing Resplendent Quetzal Pharomachrus mocinno in Guatemala with CAYAYA BIRDING

Resplendent Quetzal
Resplendent Quetzal

Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) is one of the most emblematic birds of the Neotropics. It occurs from southern Mexico to Panama. The nominate subspecies mocinno is restricted to the highlands of southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, and the south-eastern subspecies costaricensis to the highlands of Costa Rica and Panama. Many birders have seen Resplendent Quetzal on CAYAYA BIRDING tours.

Resplendent Quetzal in Guatemala
Resplendent Quetzal in Guatemala. Photographs © Knut Eisermann.

Resplendent Quetzal is a cloud forest specialist, restricted to the most humid sections of the highlands, mainly above 1000 m. It does not occur in the dry interior pine forests. In Guatemala the largest sections of suitable habitat are distributed in the Atlantic slope mountains. In the Pacific slope highlands suitable habitat is restricted to small pockets on the southern slope of the volcanoes.

The best time for seeing quetzals is the breeding season which ranges in northern Central America from January to June, depending on the location. When quetzals establish their nest sites, males perform display flights high over the forest canopy, and flocks of up to ten birds dwell noisily through the forest. Quetzals nest in half-rotten upright standing stumps, where they dug a cavity. Once a nest is attended, the pair becomes rather secretive and quite. After the breeding season Resplendent Quetzals migrate locally to areas with optimal food supply, with distances recorded of up to 50 km from the nesting site.

Get in touch to organize your trip for watching Resplendent Quetzal in Guatemala.

Resplendent-Quetzal male
Adult male Resplendent Quetzal.

Contributions by Knut Eisermann and Claudia Avendaño of CAYAYA BIRDING to the knowledge about Resplendent Quetzal

  • Eisermann, K, (2005) Noteworthy bird observations in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. Bull. Brit. Ornithol. Club 125: 3-11.
  • Eisermann, K. (2013) Noteworthy nesting record and unusual bill coloration of Resplendent Quetzal Pharomachrus mocinno. Cotinga 35: 76-80.
  • Eisermann, K. & C. Avendaño (2007) Lista comentada de las aves de Guatemala - Annotated checklist of the birds of Guatemala. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
  • Schulz, U. & K. Eisermann (2017) Morphometric differentiation between subspecies of Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno mocinno and P. m. costaricensis) based on male uppertail-coverts. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club 137: 287-291.
  • More about our bird research in Guatemala.

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