golden headed quetzal birds 2
golden headed quetzal birds 2

The resplendent quetzal is a well-named bird (it comes from nahua quetzalli: beautiful feather), and is considered one of the most beautiful avian species in the world. If you want to know more about the golden-headed quetzal, keep reading this article. This information will be also useful if you are planning to go on a birdwatching tour, so don’t miss out!


The word quetzal has its origin in nahuatl quetzalli, which means “long tail of bright feathers” or “tail covered with quetzal”. This bird, symbol of Guatemala and its currency, is medium and stylized: it measures 36 to 40 cm to the base of the tail and its weight ranges from 180 to 210 g. The most impressive part of the quetzal is the tail, which can be up to 65 cm long; this makes it protrude markedly from the nest. The tail continues to grow until age 3.

What do quetzals eat?

golden headed quetzal eat

Quetzals live in rainforests and exploit their inexhaustible assets to strengthen themselves. Since they are omnivorous creatures with feathers, they can eat meat such as frogs, wasps, ants, honey bees, broods and reptiles. In addition, they eat organic products: avocado and leaves are their best choice. 

Quetzals do not process seeds, so they tear them apart and spread them through all the forests. This propensity makes this flying creature of incredible importance for the natural adjustment of the forest as it favors reforestation.

You can also read: Where can the cock-of-the-rock bird be found?


There are five unique types of quetzals in the forests:

  • White-tipped quetzal (Pharomachrus fulgidus): They live in South America, and have a bright green plumage, with dark wings and tail, a yellow snout and a serious red chest.
  • Resplendent quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno): They are 40 cm long (the tail of the males measures 64 cm) and weigh 200 g. They can be found from Mexico to Panama.
  • Golden-headed quetzal (Pharomachrus auriceps): The head is bright, the chest is dark red, the body is splendid green, the tail is deeply dark and the nose yellow. They can be found in Panama and South America.
  • Crested quetzal (Pharomachrus antisianus): They live only in South America. The plumage is a splendid green with red tones in the stomach and the nose has a rich yellow crest.
  • Black-tailed quetzal (Pharomachrus pavoninus): The tip of the wings and tail is dark, the body is green and the chest red.

The plumage of quetzal females is brown and darker, and they are smaller. Quetzal eggs are dark blue and are incubated 18 days after laying, settling in the openings of the trees. A quetzal can live somewhere between 20 and 25 years.

Where do they live?

where golden headed quetzal live

Quetzals circulate essentially in Central America and live in nations like Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Panama, although they are also found to a lesser degree in southern Mexico and South America.

Their living space are tropical forests, meadows and mountains with thick vegetation and a sticky or sub-humid atmosphere. They make their home on uninhabited trees or in the holes left by woodpeckers.

You can also read: Rufous-crested coquette: Facts, Diet, Habitat & Pictures


It is a generally dormant feathered creature, is unique and exceptionally regional. They are not exactly skillful on the fly. Early in the day and in the middle of the morning they make a loud squeal every 8 or 10 minutes, which is polished by the male. In any case, the female additionally «sings», but with a softer and deeper voice.

Some screams have been distinguished to shout to their peers, calls that vary in relation to the specific circumstance. For example, when quetzals are flying they transmit a sound like «perwik, perwik, perwik».


They are monogamous animals during the breeding season, which is from March to June with contrasts from area to region. Males ensure that their singing and movement are noticed everywhere to attract the female. The nest is built a few meters high, about 4 to 27 meters high. And after mating the female, they lay two light blue eggs on the floor of the nest.

Incubation time is between 17 to 18 days, after which eggs hatch and 2 hatchlings are born with eyes closed. After two weeks, their body is fully secured with a delicate green down. Around 3 weeks, the chick discovers how to fly instructed by the male. At that moment, they can leave the nest, however inquisitive they are, they still have ties to their parents.

Now you know the most relevant facts about the golden-headed quetzal. As you can see, this bird is known for its iridescent green color. They are solitary and peaceful birds. And both sexes share the tasks of breeding and feeding. We hope this information has been useful to you!

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