What do Quetzals Eat? It's Disgusting,
but it Works for Them!

Want to know more about what do Quetzals eat? You might find it weird, but it fulfills their appetite. Keep reading to find out.

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Iñigo Navarro

October 17, 2021


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What’s This Post About?

Quetzals are wild birds with a shimmering golden-green plumage draping their entire body with a bright red belly and a rusty head. Their appearance has turned them into the center of attention among bird enthusiasts who love them and can’t help but capture these pretty creatures.

One might wonder, how attractive are these birds? Or might just get curious about certain unknown habits of these pristine birds? If so, keep reading this post to learn more about these birds and what they eat in particular.

Quetzals have a large appetite. These vibrant birds have a fruit-based diet. They consume foods like fruits, seeds, insects, lizards, berries. They supplement their diet with smaller insects and other creatures to stay healthy.

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Do Quetzals Eat Fruit?

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Quetzals primarily enjoy eating wild avocados along with big fruits like pear, which they swallow quickly. Quetzals are popularly known as fruit-eating birds and enjoy eating large fruits, which they often supplement with other fruits like insects and small creatures.

Also, to top it all, these birds are known to spread the seeds of fruits they consume. So, all in all, the growth of wild avocado trees is entirely dependent on these birds, especially in the mountainous forests of Central America.

What Insects do Quetzals Eat?

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Quetzals primarily consume fruits, but they supplement their diet by consuming insects such as ants, wasps, and even larvae. They consume lizards and frogs too. Sounds disgusting, but it is what it is!

Description of the Quetzal

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Quetzal, also known as the resplendent Quetzal, is a Central American trogon with brilliant green plumage above a red breast, and the males have an extended tail cover. Quetzal is an omnivore bird that eats fruits and small insects as well as lizards.

These birds are usually found in the tropical rainforests of Central America and have an average life span ranging from 20-25 years. Unfortunately, science has been a bit unfair to these birds, giving these beautiful birds a not so catchy scientific name - Pharomacrus/Euptilotis.

They are small in size, with their bodies stretching to 38-40 cm, the tail going up to 61cm, and a total body weight ranging between 200-225g.

Let’s learn more about these beautiful birds!

Interesting Facts About the Quetzal

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Want to know what these little birds are capable of? Here are some interesting facts about this bird - keep reading! 

  • Quetzals are considered the world’s most beautiful bird.
  • Male quetzals grow twin tail feathers during mating season, forming a fantastic long tail-like going up to one meter.
  • Females share their mates’ brilliant blue, green, and red coloring; however, they don’t have long tails.
  • Quetzal beaks are strong enough to carve out a hole in rotten trees or stumps for their nests.

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  • Young quetzals can start flying as early as the age of about three weeks.
  • Quetzals are the symbol of the nation of Guatemala and are often referred to as Guatemalan quetzals.
  • Quetzals’ history goes back to ancient Maya and Aztecs, who considered it a sacred being. Royals and priests wore their feathers during grand ceremonies and events.
  • These striking birds are extinct in Guatemala and everywhere else as well. They are sometimes trapped for captivity or killed, but their primary threat is the disappearance of their forest homes.
  • In some areas, most notably Costa Rica’s cloud forests, protected lands preserve habitat for quetzals and provide opportunities for eco-tourists and eager bird watchers from around the globe to have a look at these beautiful birds.
  • A Quetzal weighs about 7 to 8 ounces on average.
  • Its wingspan is a minimum of 19 inches, and its maximum wingspan is 21 inches.
  • A Quetzal can live up to 3 to 10 years, and their subspecies have a lifespan of 3 to 5 years.
  • An interesting fact about Quetzals is that they mate for life, which is why they are pretty selective when choosing a mate for themselves.
  • Quetzals have approximately six subspecies and are found in different geographical locations: The Crested Quetzal, the Golden-headed Quetzal, the White-tipped Quetzal, and the Pavonine the Eared Quetzal, and the most popularly known is the Resplendent Quetzal.

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  • Quetzals subspecies belong to the Trogon family of birds.
  • They do not walk a lot and are inactive as their feet are weak and do not support walking.
  • The female Quetzals lay up to 1-3 eggs incubated by both male and female parents, laid in three weeks.
  • These birds have a varied vocal range. They communicate amongst themselves using a variety of calls used for specific purposes.
  • Quetzals’ natural predators are owls, hawks, and squirrels.
  • These birds are mainly omnivores, feeding on fruits, insects, and frogs.
  • The Quetzals live in tree holes and are pretty high up near the canopies abandoned by woodpeckers or made by quetzals themselves.
  • The toes of the quetzals are pretty different, two toes are facing forward, and two toes are facing backward to help them maintain their balance on tree branches and other rough surfaces.

Habitat of the Quetzal

To catch a glimpse of these alluring Quetzals, you’d have to find your way to Central America, where they live in humid tropical forests or montane cloud forests, substantial open areas with scattered trees or damp woods in mountainous regions on higher altitudes of 1200-3000 meters.

They are loner birds except when breeding or feeding. On peaceful misty dawns or in hazy afternoons, Quetzals are full of life. They chirp loudly and sing their songs in pairs of two, filling forests with their melodious tunes.

However, on sunny or windy days, they are as quiet as a mouse. They live a short life with a lifespan of around 3-10 years.

Diet of the Quetzal

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Quetzals are considered specialists in eating fruits. They even consume insects, lizards, frogs, and other small animals, which makes them omnivores. Wild avocados are an essential part of their diet and other fruits of the laurel family, which birds swallow whole before regurgitating the pit.

Adults eat fruits, while the chicks eat insects and some selective fruits. Quetzals use the “hovering” and “stalling” methods to pick fruits from the tips of branches selectively.

Quetzals and Their Interactions with Humans

Quetzals are beautiful with attractive colors that make them a popular tourist attraction. But, unfortunately, the sole reason why sometimes they get trapped and are held captive is to possess it and show it off to tourists or townsfolks.

Apart from that, they usually stay in forests which is why deforestation is a threat to their population.

Caring for a Quetzal

These birds are born wild; they do not like being held captive. In addition, they react pretty severely to captivity and become quite challenging to handle.

Even if they are kept in zoos, these birds give a hard time to owners and keepers. Hence, people who have specialized knowledge about Quetzals should only deal with them.

The Behavior of the Quetzals

These birds usually live in the carved-out cavities in trees closer to the top of the canopy. These holes are sometimes often used and abandoned by the woodpeckers. Quetzals are solitary birds and are crepuscular, making them one of those active birds during the twilight hours of the day.

These birds are considered solid fliers and do not descend to the ground mainly because the feet of the Quetzals are adapted to perch and hop on trees. These are territorial birds and are usually quiet; they make calls during dawn and dusk to show their possession of a particular area.

Reproduction of the Quetzals

This bird reaches sexual maturity at the age of 5-6 years. Their first mating season is from March to June, and before that, the males grow a twin tail feather up to a train of 1m long.

The Quetzals’ feathers don’t develop until they become three years of age. During mating, the female usually follows the movements of the male.

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After the mating process is done, they lay their eggs in hole-nest made by them in a rotted tree or stump or one abandoned by a woodpecker.

The hole-nest is usually up to 10m high above the ground. The female bird lays up to 2-3 eggs, and both the male and female bird take turns nurturing them till 17-18 days, after which the bird hatches. The baby bird can fly when they are three weeks of age.

Quetzals and their Symbol

For up to a thousand years, these birds have been held in high regard for their beauty. However, they have a different lifestyle and live in deep and wooded forest areas. Quetzals are pretty unique, which results in a few interesting symbolizing facts about them:

Symbol of Liberty

Resplendent Quetzals are birds who do not deal with captivity well and hence have a reputation of killing themselves as soon as they get confined—the reason why in different cultures, quetzals have become a symbol of liberty.

Scared Animals

These birds are scared of ancient Maya and Aztec people. In old times, the feathers of this bird were worn by royal individuals and were used as money.

Currency

Guatemala’s currency is known as the Quetzal, and they trade in it.

How long does a Quetzal bird live?

Quetzals are known to live up to 20-25 years. However, unlike other birds, the Quetzals cannot live in confinement as they are only known to survive while living in cloud forests around the world.

Can Quetzals be kept as pets?

Quetzals are beautiful and have an excellent appearance, making them a popular attraction for tourists who love bird watching. It’s not usual, but sometimes these birds are trapped to be kept as a pet or just for tourists making them less in numbers.

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Keep Reading!

Are you now well aware of this fantastic and beautiful bird? It’s not just beautiful but rather has quite a lot of ancient history attached to its species. Unfortunately, however, their diet is a bit disgusting, comprising of lizards.

If you want to read more about interesting species, here is a post you should read on whether Toucans make good pets or not.

Are Toucans Good Pets? Yes, Yes, And Yes! This Is Why!

Does the curiosity of knowing whether Toucans make good pets or not bother you often? Let that worry go by reading this post.

Iñigo Navarro Picture

By Iñigo Navarro

Bird Watching USA

My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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Iñigo Navarro Picture

Iñigo Navarro

Bird Watching USA

My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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