Birds Vol 1 #1 – The Resplendent Trogon (Quetzal)

Resplendent (Trogon) Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno)

Resplendent (Trogon) Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno)

Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

Vol 1. January, 1897 No. 1



A Letter to Little Boys and Girls of the United States.

Is it cold where you live, little boys and girls? It is not where I live. Don’t you think my feathers grew in the bright sunshine?

My home is way down where the big oceans almost meet. The sun is almost straight overhead every noon.

I live in the woods, way back where the trees are tall and thick. I don’t fly around much, but sit on a limb of a tree way up high.

Don’t you think my red breast looks pretty among the green leaves?

When I see a fly or a berry I dart down after it. My long tail streams out behind like four ribbons. I wish you could see me. My tail never gets in the way.

Wouldn’t you like to have me sit on your shoulder, little boy? You see my tail would reach almost to the ground.

If you went out into the street with me on your shoulder, I would call whe-oowhe-oo, the way I do in the woods.

All the little boys and girls playing near would look around and say, “What is that noise?” Then they would see you and me and run up fast and say, “Where did you get that bird?”

The little girls would want to pull out my tail feathers to put around their hats. You would not let them, would you?

I have a mate. I think she is very nice. Her tail is not so long as mine. Would you like to see her too? She lays eggs every year, and sits on them till little birds hatch out. They are just like us, but they have to grow and get dressed in the pretty feathers like ours. They look like little dumplings when they come out of the eggs.

But they are all right. They get very hungry and we carry them lots of things to eat, so they can grow fast.

Your friend,
R. T.

Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) Reinier Munguia

Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) Reinier Munguia


imgrESPLENDENT Trogons (Quetzals) are natives of Central America. There are fifty kinds, and this is the largest. A systematic account of the superb tribe has been given by Mr. Gould, the only naturalist who has made himself fully acquainted with them.

Of all birds there are few which excite so much admiration as the Resplendent Trogon.

The skin is so singularly thin that it has been not inaptly compared to wet blotting paper, and the plumage has so light a hold upon the skin that when the bird is shot the feathers are plentifully struck from their sockets by its fall and the blows which it receives from the branches as it comes to the ground.

Its eggs, of a pale bluish-green, were first procured by Mr. Robert Owen. Its chief home is in the mountains near Coban in Vera Paz, but it also inhabits forests in other parts of Guatemala at an elevation of from 6,000 to 9,000 feet.

From Mr. Salvin’s account of his shooting in Vera Paz we extract the following hunting story:

“My companions are ahead and Filipe comes back to say that they have heard a quesal (Resplendent Trogon). Of course, being anxious to watch as well as to shoot one of these birds myself, I immediately hurry to the spot. I have not to wait long. A distant clattering noise indicates that the bird is on the wing. He settles—a splendid male—on the bough of a tree not seventy yards from where we are hidden. It sits almost motionless on its perch, the body remaining in the same position, the head only moving from side to side. The tail does not hang quite perpendicularly, the angle between the true tail and the vertical being perhaps as much as fifteen or twenty degrees. The tail is occasionally jerked open and closed again, and now and then slightly raised, causing the long tail coverts to vibrate gracefully. I have not seen all. A ripe fruit catches the quesal’s eye and he darts from his perch, plucks the berry, and returns to his former position. This is done with a degree of elegance that defies description. A low whistle from Capriano calls the bird near, and a moment afterward it is in my hand—the first quesal I have seen (…).”

The above anecdote is very beautiful and graphic, but we read the last sentence with pain. We wish to go on record with this our first number as being unreconciled to the ruthless killing of the birds. He who said, not a sparrow “shall fall on the ground without your Father,” did not intend such birds to be killed, but to beautify the earth.

The cries of the quesal are various. They consist principally of a low note, whe-oowhe-oo, which the bird repeats, whistling it softly at first, then gradually swelling it into a loud and not unmelodious cry. This is often succeeded by a long note, which begins low and after swelling dies away as it began. Other cries are harsh and discordant. The flight of the Trogon is rapid and straight. The long tail feathers, which never seem to be in the way, stream after him. The bird is never found except in forests of the loftiest trees, the lower branches of which, being high above the ground, seem to be its favorite resort. Its food consists principally of fruit, but occasionally a caterpillar is found in its stomach.

Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) by Ian

Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) by Ian

Lee’s Addition:

The Resplendent is in the Trogan Family, but today it is called the Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno). Along with the writer, needless killing of birds is uncalled for, but back in 1897 the ladies liked feathers in their hats. Thankfully, that practice has been stopped for the most part, but how many birds have become extinct or near extinct because of it? What a fantastic bird the Lord created with these long tails.

For man also does not know his time: Like fish taken in a cruel net, Like birds caught in a snare, So the sons of men are snared in an evil time, When it falls suddenly upon them. (Ecclesiastes 9:12 NKJV)

Birds Illustrated by Color Photograhy Vol 1 January 1897 No 1 - Cover

Birds Illustrated by Color Photograhy Vol 1 January 1897 No 1 – Cover

Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited – Introduction

The above article is the second article in the monthly serial that was started in January 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.

To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited


The Resplendent Quetzal is one of 43 species in the Trogonidae – Trogons Family in the Trogoniformes Order. Of the 7 Genus, only two have Quetzals and the other five have Trogons.

The word “trogon” is Greek for “nibbling” and refers to the fact that these birds gnaw holes in trees to make their nests.

The Resplendent Quetzal, Pharomachrus mocinno, is a bird in the trogon family. It is found from southern Mexico to western Panama (unlike the other quetzals of the genus Pharomachrus, which are found in South America and eastern Panama). It is well known for its colorful plumage. There are two subspecies, P. m. mocinno and P. m. costaricensis.

This species is 36–40 cm (14–16 in) long, plus up to 65 cm (26 in) of tail streamer for the male, and weighs about 210 g (7 oz). It is the largest representative of the trogon order. The subspecies costaricensis is slightly smaller than the nominate race and has shorter narrower tail plumes.

This quetzal plays an important role in Mesoamerican mythologies. The Resplendent Quetzal is Guatemala’s national bird, and an image of it is on the flag and coat of arms of Guatemala. It is also the name of the local currency (abbreviation GTQ).

1989 Half Quetzal

1989 Half Quetzal

Trogons are residents of tropical forests worldwide, with the greatest diversity in the Neotropics. The genus Apaloderma contains the three African species, Harpactes and Apalharpactes are Asian, and the remaining four genera are found in Central and South America.

They feed on insects and fruit, and their broad bills and weak legs reflect their diet and arboreal habits. Although their flight is fast, they are reluctant to fly any distance. Trogons are generally not migratory, although some species undertake partial local movements.

Trogons have soft, often colourful, feathers with distinctive male and female plumage. They are the only type of animal with a heterodactyl toe arrangement.

The trogons are insectivorous, usually hunting from a perch. They nest in holes dug into trees or termite nests, laying 2-4 white or pastel-coloured eggs.

The majority of trogons are birds of tropical and subtropical forests. They have a cosmopolitan distribution in the worlds wet tropics, being found in the Americas, Africa and Asia. A few species are distributed into the temperate zone, with one species, the Elegant Trogon, reaching the south of the United States specifically southern Arizona and the surrounding area. Some species, particularly the quetzals, are adapted to cooler montane forest.

The trogons as a family are fairly uniform in appearance, they have compact bodies with long tails (very long in the case of the quetzals), and short necks. Trogons range in size from the 23 cm, 40 gram Scarlet-rumped Trogon to the 40 cm, 210 gram Resplendent Quetzal (not including the male quetzal’s 3-foot-long (0.91 m) tail streamers). Their legs and feet are weak and short, and trogons are essentially unable to walk beyond a very occasional shuffle along a branch. They are even incapable of turning around on a branch without using their wings. The ratio of leg muscle to body weight in trogons is only 3 percent, the lowest known ratio of any bird.

(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)

Next Article – The Mandarin Duck

Previous Article – The Nonpareil – Painted Bunting

Wordless Birds


Ian’s Bird of the Week – Resplendent Quetzal
Ian’s Bird of the Week – Violaceous Trogon
Trogons & Quetzel Photos – Ian’s Birdway
Resplendent Quetzal Photos on Aves – Wikipedia
Resplendent Quetzal Wikipedia
Trogon Family – Wikipedia
Birds of the World – Trogonidae


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