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El Quetzal – My Shot of the Day – December 3, 2013


el quetzal

You may recall that back in January I went on a fruitless search for El Quetzal in the mountains of Panama. It was an awesome trek into some amazing country with a great friend but alas…not rare and endangered bird.  Today I had a bit more luck…although these lovely creatures were NOT cooperative.

Just about 2 kilometers up the Rio Savegre from The Savegre Hotel is a little climb up into the forest where a plum orchard hangs on a nearly 45 degree slope and fat watermelons hang precariously from the branches of the plum trees. There were a nesting pair of El Quetzal and several juveniles.

During mating season, male quetzals grow twin tail feathers that form an amazing train up to three feet (one meter) long. Females do not have long trains, but they do share the brilliant blue, green, and red coloring of their mates. Male colors tend to be more vibrant.

Resplendent quetzal pairs use their powerful beaks to hollow hole nests in rotted trees or stumps. Inside, they take turns incubating two or three eggs—though males have such long tails that they sometimes stick outside the nest.

The female was forever in motion. She went from an oak just below me to another one just up the slope. She was fast, moving in a flash of color so quick I couldnt focus on her. In the lower oak she sat against the sun, making a decent photo impossible. In the upper oak she hid in the shadows and there was no way I could see her colors. These young males here moved about a bit less, mainly staying in the lower oak. I’m not terribly pleased with the shots but really, that was about all I could get.

I’ll head to the same place tomorrow and try again.

el quetzal


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