The Resplendent Quetzal
A Fall 2009 Bio 245 Conservation Biology Class Project
Written by Abby Williams.
The range of the Resplendent Quetzal, Pharomachrus mocinno, is from southern Mexico to western Panama (Wheelwright 1983; Solorzano et al. 2000; Solorzano et al. 2004). Out of the two subspecies, Pharomachrus mocinno mocinno is located only in Mexico (Avila et al. 1996; Solorzano et al. 2004). The habitat of this bird includes high elevation cloud forests during the dry season (Solorzano et al. 2000; Solorzano et al. 2003). During the rainy season, Resplendent Quetzals migrate to lower montane forest systems (Solorzano et al. 2000).
The Resplendent Quetzal is a specialized frugivore with the fruits of the lauraceae and moracea trees dominating its diet when adults. However, nestlings primarily have animal diets including insects, beetles, lizards and snails. An important disperser of tree seeds (Wheelwright 1983; Avila et al. 1996; Solorzano et al. 2000), the Resplendent Quetzal evolved with the lauraceae family. Its flexible mouthparts, expansible stomach, and muscular esophagus are specialized for eating large fruit (Wheelwright 1983). During the dry season, quetzal abundance increases and the breeding period occurs because this is when fruit availability is highest (Wheelwright 1983; Solorzano et al. 2000).
The primary threats to this species include deforestation, isolation, and nest failure (Wheelwright 1983; Solorzano et al. 2000). Each nesting pair produces two clutches of two eggs where both parents serve as caretakers. These clutches fail due to predation and/or nest destruction from squirrels, weasels, Emerald Toucanets, flooding, and nest collapse (Wheelwright 1983). In Mexico, cloud forests with quetzals reduced from 39 in 1970 to 11 small isolated forests (Solorzano et al. 2003). This increasing isolation creates low genetic diversity in Mexican populations (Solorzano et al. 2004). Additionally, the lack of conservation law enforcement has lead to “souvenir” hunting and a lack of protection for wet season habitats. The beautiful Resplendent Quetzal will become extinct if reserves do not protect lower montane forest systems (Wheelwright 1983; Solorzano et al. 2003; Solorzano et al. 2004).
Want to Learn More?
Avila, M. L. H., V. H. O. Hernandez, and E. Velarde. 1996. The diet of Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno mocinno: Trogonidae) in a Mexican cloud forest. Biotropica 28:720-727.
Bartley, G. 2006. Resplendent Quetzal. Nature photography: wildlife and avian photography from Canada and around the world: http://www.glennbartley.com/naturephotography/Costa%20Rica/Birds/resplendentquetzal.htm
Solorzano S., M. A. Castillo-Santiago, D. A. Navarrete-Gutierrez, and K. Oyama. 2003. Impacts of the loss of neotropical highland forests on the species distribution: a case study using Resplendent Quetzal an endangered bird species. Biological Conservation 114:341-349.
Solorzano, S., A. J. Baker, and K. Oyama. 2004. Conservation priorities for Resplendent Quetzals based on analysis of mitochondrial DNA control-region sequences. Condor 106:449-456.
Solorzano, S., S. Castillo, T. Valverde, L. Avila. 2000. Quetzal abundance in relation to fruit availability in a cloud forest in southeastern Mexico. Biotropica 32:523-532
Wheelwright, N. T. 1983. Fruits and the ecology of Resplendent Quetzals. The Auk 100:286-301.
This page was created from an environmental education writing project generated in the Fall 2009 Bio245 Conservation Biology class. Content does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Gustavus Adolphus College.