Guatemala’s National Bird: Resplendent Quetzal

by Victor
Published: Last Updated on
Flying Resplendent Quetzal

The Resplendent Quetzal, also known as the Quetzal, is a bird species that is considered to be one of the most iconic symbols of Guatemala. It is also the national bird of the country and has been featured on its flag and coat of arms.


The Resplendent Quetzal is a medium-sized bird that measures around 36-40 cm in length and weighs between 210-250 grams. Its most striking feature is its long, iridescent green tail feathers, which can measure up to 65 cm in length, almost twice the size of its body.

The male and female Resplendent Quetzals have different appearances. The male has a bright green body with a red breast, while the female has a duller green body and lacks the red breast. Both sexes have a distinctive crest of feathers on their head that is iridescent green.

Habitat and Range

The Resplendent Quetzal is found in the cloud forests of Central America, including Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, and Costa Rica. They inhabit altitudes between 1,500 to 3,000 meters and prefer the cool, misty forests with dense vegetation.


The Resplendent Quetzal is a solitary bird that spends most of its time perched in trees, eating fruits, insects, and small animals. They are also known to eat small reptiles and amphibians. During the breeding season, males use their long tail feathers to attract females and perform elaborate courtship displays.

Cultural Significance

The Resplendent Quetzal holds immense cultural and symbolic significance for the people of Guatemala. The bird has deep roots in ancient Mayan civilization and is considered a sacred creature in Mayan mythology. The quetzal’s feathers were highly valued by the Mayans, who associated the bird with wealth, power, and the divine.

The bird’s name, “quetzal,” is derived from the Nahuatl word “quetzalli,” meaning “precious feather.” The Resplendent Quetzal’s feathers were coveted for their vibrant colors and were used in ceremonial headdresses and attire worn by Mayan rulers and religious leaders. Today, the quetzal’s image can be seen in Guatemalan art, textiles, and currency, symbolizing the nation’s natural heritage and cultural pride.

Conservation Status

The Resplendent Quetzal is considered to be near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The primary threat to their population is habitat loss due to deforestation, as well as illegal hunting for their feathers and meat.

Efforts to protect the Resplendent Quetzal have been made by various organizations in Guatemala and other countries where the bird is found. These efforts include reforestation programs, establishment of protected areas, and education and awareness campaigns.

Such as the Biotopo del Quetzal, a nature reserve located in central Guatemala. The reserve covers an area of approximately 2,000 hectares and is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including the quetzal. The reserve also serves as an important research site for scientists studying the ecology and behavior of the quetzal.


The Resplendent Quetzal is a magnificent bird species that is an important cultural symbol of Guatemala. As Guatemala’s national bird, it represents the unique biodiversity and natural beauty of the country’s cloud forests. However, its population is threatened, and urgent measures need to be taken to protect this iconic species and its habitat.

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