Monday, June 21, 2010

Creature Feature: Resplendent Quetzal.

(Whew. Not much time to edit these while overseas due to my VERY limited internet access, so prepare for lightning posts! They will still be 'posted' on the same days, so it will look like I was still posting one a day. Shh, our little secret!)

Peacocks are not the only birds with striking plumage and extreme sexual dimorphism. Another bird in the Americas, the Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) also exhibits a striking difference between male and female birds. The males are brilliant green with red undersides, and...

...OK, I'm going to run out of words. Have a picture instead:

The female is, of course, drab brown for better camouflage. All mythological associations with this bird revolve around the male and his spectacular plumage. It ranges from Mexico to Panama, and it is hard to not think that this little bird is special after one look at its tail feathers.

Some of you probably picked up on this bird's connection with the serpent god "Quetzalcoatl" right away. Both the Aztec and Mayan peoples linked this bird with their own god of the air. Since the male's long green feathers also look like leaves, they were associated with fertile crops. Said feathers were plucked from the male bird and used in headdresses.

Nowadays, we also associate it with Articuno.

Besides being popular in tribal fashion, modern Central American cultures (especially the Guatemalans) see the quetzal as a symbol of liberty. Legend has it that the red on the male quetzal's chest originated from the bloodstain of a Mayan warrior, and that no quetzal has ever sung since the Conquistadors took over Mexico-Central America. Quetzals do, however, have a reputation for being poor captives; many of them would rather die than be in captivity. Only recently have they been bred behind bars.

Like everything else in Central America, the quetzal is primarily at risk due to habitat loss. Just let the sacred birdie be, mmkay?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the info! I am traveling to Costa Rica soon and hope to see one of these beautiful creatures!