Pharomachrus antisianuscrested quetzal

Geographic Range

Crested quetzals are found in the neotropics, in northern and western South America, including Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. (Kricher, 1997)


Crested quetzals are found in the forest canopy of second growth or mature, moist forests, including cloud forests. They are found at elevations from 1000 to 3000 meters. They are most commonly observed perching quietly in dense foliage in fruiting trees. (Fjeldsa and Krabbe, 1990; Hilty and William, 1986; Skutch, 1944; Wheatley, 1995)

  • Range elevation
    1000 to 3000 m
    3280.84 to 9842.52 ft

Physical Description

Characteristic of crested quetzals is their iridescent green plumage that extends from the head across the back. Females have slightly less vivid plumage than do males. The breast plumage is vivid crimson and the wings are deep violet. The beak is finely serrated, permitting a tight grip on food items. The plumage under the beak is a dull turquoise color in comparison to the brilliant colors of the body. A tuft of emerald green and turquoise feathers grows from the head, distinguishing crested quetzals from the other species of trogons. Adults grow to about 35.5 cm in length. Males can develop an emerald green, violet, and blue tail that can exceed 76 cm in length. The undersides of the tail feathers are white, which is also a diagnostic characteristic of this species. (Dunning, 1987; Fjeldsa and Krabbe, 1990; Kricher, 1997; LaBastille, et al., 1972; Meyer de Shauensee, 1966)

  • Average length
    35 cm
    13.78 in


Crested quetzals form monogamous mating pairs, in which both parents care for their young. There is little available information on courtship rituals. More is known about its their close relatives, resplendent quetzals. During the mating season, male resplendent quetzals perform a spiral “sky dance” in order to attract a female mate. It is thought that the long, colorful tail of crested quetzal males is important in in female choice of a mate, but this has not been studied. (Hilty and William, 1986; Stiles and Skutch, 1989)

The breeding season is February through June. Crested quetzals excavate a hole in a decaying tree to create a nest. The excavation is thought to play a vital role in reproduction by stimulating ovulation. Female crested quetzals lay 1 to 2 eggs that are light blue in color. The incubation period is 18 days. Young hatch with their eyes closed, and they remain closed for the first week of life. Parents bring fruits, insects, and small amphibians to feed the hatchlings. During the 3rd week the largest and strongest hatchling will begin to learn to fly. As soon as the fledgling is confident in flight, at about 3 to 4 weeks, it will begin to search for its own territory. Fledglings often remain close to the male parent for the first few years of life. (Bowes and Allen, 1969; Bowes and Allen, 1969; Stiles and Skutch, 1989)

  • Breeding interval
    Crested quetzals can breed twice during a breeding season.
  • Breeding season
    Crested quetzals breed between February and June.
  • Range eggs per season
    2 to 4
  • Average time to hatching
    18 days
  • Average fledging age
    3 weeks
  • Range time to independence
    3 to 4 weeks

Male and female crested quetzals stay together to feed and protect their offspring during the breeding season. Males usually incubate the eggs during the day, while females incubate at night. Once the eggs are hatched, both males and females play vital roles in the feeding, protection, and teaching of their offspring. Females will often leave the nest before the offspring are independent, leaving male parents to continue feeding and protecting their offspring until they are fledged. (Bowes and Allen, 1969)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
    • protecting
      • male
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • male
    • protecting
      • male
  • post-independence association with parents


Conservation efforts of a close relative, resplendent quetzals (Pharomachrus moccino), have shown that breeding rates are low and that lifespan is short in captivity. This information may be similar in crested quetzals, but no research has been done. (Bowes and Allen, 1969; Stiles and Skutch, 1989)


Crested quetzals are solitary forest birds that often sit motionless for long periods at middle elevations of the forest canopy. Crested quetzals are poor flyers and spend much of their time perching. The flight pattern has been described as undulating. Crested quetzals can be seen hovering for short periods of time to pluck fruit from trees. Crested quetzals do not migrate and are active during the day. (Bowes and Allen, 1969; Bowes and Allen, 1969; Fjeldsa and Krabbe, 1990; Hilty and William, 1986)

  • Average territory size
    333 m^2

Home Range

Crested quetzals defend an average territory of 333 meters squared and from about 4 meters off the ground to the canopy. (Wheatley, 1995)

Communication and Perception

Crested quetzals communicate through vocalizations. Their most common call sounds like "way-way-wayo." A muffled whistle can also be heard that resembles “whee-eoo”. Crested quetzals communicate alarm with a short series of “ka” notes. Males also have an extremely long tail with many bright colors, which may be used for visual displays for females, but no research has been done on this. (Fjeldsa and Krabbe, 1990)

Food Habits

Crested quetzals are specialized omnivores that prefer fruits of trees in the family Lauraceae. These birds eat 41 species of fruits in the family Lauraceae. Crested quetzals also eat small amphibians, reptiles, and insects. (Meyer de Schauenee and Phelps, 1978; Wheelright, 1983)

  • Animal Foods
  • amphibians
  • reptiles
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • fruit


Predators of crested quetzals include the nest predators grey squirrels and kinkajous. Ornate hawk-eagles, and a few other hawks and owls may prey on fledglings and adults. (Bowes and Allen, 1969)

  • Known Predators
    • grey squirrels (Sciurus griseoflavus)
    • kinkajous (Potus flavus)
    • ornate hawk-eagles (Spitaetus ornatus)

Ecosystem Roles

Due to their preference for fruits of the Lauraceae family, crested quetzals and some Lauraceae species are thought to have coevolved mutualisms, with crested quetzals being important seed dispersers.

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds
Mutualist Species
  • Lauraceae

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Crested quetzals, and other quetzal species are loved by bird watchers and are an ecotourism attraction. (Kricher, 1997)

  • Positive Impacts
  • ecotourism
  • research and education

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of crested quetzals on humans.

Conservation Status

Crested quetzals are not listed in the CITES appendices. According to the IUCN Red List crested quetzals populations are of "Least Concern." Populations may be threatened by habitat destruction in some areas.

Other Comments

Crested quetzals are sometimes treated as subspecies of resplendent quetzals (Pharomachrus mocinno).


Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Kristen Pylman (author), Kalamazoo College, Ann Fraser (editor, instructor), Kalamazoo College.



living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


to jointly display, usually with sounds, at the same time as two or more other individuals of the same or different species

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

induced ovulation

ovulation is stimulated by the act of copulation (does not occur spontaneously)


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

sexual ornamentation

one of the sexes (usually males) has special physical structures used in courting the other sex or fighting the same sex. For example: antlers, elongated tails, special spurs.


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


2006. "CITES" (On-line). Accessed November 11, 2006 at

2006. "IUCN Red List" (On-line). Accessed November 11, 2006 at

2006. "United States Endangered Species Act list" (On-line). Accessed November 11, 2006 at

Bowes, A., D. Allen. 1969. Biology and Conservation of the Quetzal. Biological Conservation 1, 4: 297-306.

Dunning, J. 1987. South American Birds. United States of America: Harrowood Books.

Fjeldsa, J., N. Krabbe. 1990. Birds of the High Andes. Copenhagen, Denmark: Zoological Museum, University of Copenhagen.

Hilty, S., B. William. 1986. A Guide to the Birds of Columbia. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Kricher, J. 1997. A Neotropical Companion. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

LaBastille, A., D. Allen, L. Durrell. 1972. Behavior and Feather Structure of the Quetzal. The Auk, 89: 339-348.

Meyer de Schauenee, R., W. Phelps. 1978. A Guide to the Birds of Venezuela. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Meyer de Shauensee, R. 1966. The Species of Birds of South America. United States of America: The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.

Skutch, A. 1972. Tropical American Birds. United States: Nuttall Ornithological Club.

Skutch, A. 1944. Life History of the Quetzal. The Condor, 46: 213-235.

Stiles, G., A. Skutch. 1989. A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica. Utica, New York: Cornell University Press.

Wheatley, N. 1995. Where to Watch Birds in South America. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Wheelright, N. 1983. Fruits and the Ecology of the Resplendent Quetzal. The Auk, 100: 286-301.