Trogoniformes – Trogons & quetzals

The word ‘trogon’ in Greek means ‘nibbling’, something these birds do to trees, making holes in them to use as their nests

Comprising some of the world’s most visually arresting birds, is a group that infuses tropical forests with vibrant color and melodious song. These arboreal creatures, residing predominantly in the lush canopies of the tropics, are distinguished by their stunning, vivid plumage and a lifestyle intimately tied to the dense foliage of their habitats.

Trogons are compact in build, with rounded wings adapted for maneuvering through the dense trees, and their small, weak feet are indicative of a life spent mostly aloft among branches rather than on the ground. The plumage of trogons is exceptionally soft, an adaptation that may reduce noise as they move through the forest, aiding in their stealthy search for food.

Sexual dimorphism is a pronounced feature of this order, with males and females often sporting dramatically different colors and patterns. This characteristic is not just for show; it plays a crucial role in courtship and mating, with the males typically displaying the more vibrant hues to attract the less conspicuously colored females.

The calls of trogons are as distinctive as their appearance. These loud, melodious sounds resonate through the forests, serving as territorial markers and as an integral part of their mating rituals. Among the Trogoniformes, the Quetzals are particularly noted for their complex calls, which are believed to be more sophisticated and varied than their trogon relatives, often forming a symphony that enlivens the forest ambiance.

However, these magnificent birds face significant threats from deforestation. Their specialized nesting habits—often involving the use of cavities in rotten trees or abandoned woodpecker holes—mean that they require mature forests to thrive. As such, trogons are not just indicators of tropical biodiversity but also of the health of their ecosystems. The loss of their habitat not only silences their calls but also diminishes the ecological richness of their homes.