With a bronzy tint to the green colors of its head, bright eyes and calm nature, the Golden-headed quetzal (Pharomachrus auriceps) can be found in the humid highland forests in the Andes of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. These members of the Trogonidae family are solitary birds except during breeding season, when they form monogamous pairs. They are very arboreal and rarely land on the ground. They fly short distances from branch to branch using rapid and powerful wing beats, in a rising and falling flight pattern.
Golden-headed quetzals usually nest in a hollow of an old tree. Males and females are approximately the same size, weighing around five ounces. The males are iridescent green with a golden cast to their heads, black wings, bright red bellies and a yellow bill. The females are duller, with a brown, slightly glossed olive head and a dusky bill. The majority of their diet consists of pulpy fruits and berries, but they will also eat insects and occasionally will eat small vertebrates, such as frogs and lizards.
Only a few institutions had success breeding this species, so a few years ago we started a breeding program here at the DWA, providing nest logs, balanced diets and an environment as close as possible to their natural habitat. This summer, with a lot of joy, we saw our first clutch of two beautiful blue eggs hatching after 18 days of incubation. The babies could not be more adorable, making calls and chirping sounds just a few moments after hatching. Under the care of the nursery staff, they were fed baby bird formula, pellets, blueberries and mice pinkies. After 28 days of hard work, the babies started to perch, fly and eat on their own.
The breeding couple continues to build on their nest, so we hope to have the opportunity to keep working with these enchanted creatures. At this time, the Golden-headed quetzals are off exhibit, in our Breeding Aviaries and the Baby Bird Nursery. You can see other colorful species of this family during your visit, such as the White-tailed trogon (Trogon chionurus) and the Black-tailed trogon (Trogon melanurus), in free-flight Mundo Maya and at “Trogon Heights.” This area, so named by the keepers, can best be seen in the rainforest on the left of the Toucan Heights exhibit as you cross the bridge to the otters. They can also be seen in Mundo Maya near the flamingos, as you look over the shark tunnel — so look up when searching for them!