Bird GuideTrogonsEared Quetzal

At a Glance

Long regarded as a rare and elusive specialty of the Mexican mountains, this big trogon stunned birders by appearing north of the border in 1977, with a family group in Arizona's Chiricahua Mountains. Since then it has occurred several more times in Arizona, in at least four ranges, and has been found nesting. Only a distant relative of the Elegant Trogon, this species is more closely related to the quetzals of the deep tropics.
Perching Birds
Low Concern
Arroyos and Canyons, Forests and Woodlands

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Probably no regular migration anywhere in its range. Has proven itself capable of wandering long distances, however, covering the open stretches of dry lowlands between mountain ranges in Arizona.


14" (36 cm). Larger than Elegant Trogon. Lacks white chest band, has darker bill. Male is deep green on head, female grayer. Tail bluish above, solid gray and white below (without barring).
About the size of a Crow
Wing Shape
Broad, Fingered, Rounded
Tail Shape
Long, Rounded, Square-tipped, Wedge-shaped

Songs and Calls

Song a series of tremulous whistles, increasing in volume. Calls include a squeaky, tenuous, rising weee or suwee, usually closing with a sharp KT!; a high, quavering Blue Jay–like kee-yah, repeated in rapid series on one pitch; and a harsh, rattling, descending krr-krr-krr.
Call Pattern
Falling, Flat, Rising, Simple
Call Type
Raucous, Scream, Whistle


Pine forests in mountains. In Arizona, has been found in several canyons, all with pine-oak forest and with other conifers such as Douglas-fir. In Mexico, occurs mostly at elevations of 6,000-10,000' in the mountains, in coniferous and pine-oak forest, often near sheer rocky cliffs.



Apparently 2 eggs make up the usual clutch; eggs are pale blue. Incubation is probably by both parents, but details and incubation period not well known.


Fed by both parents. Adults are very wary around the nest, and easily disturbed by human intruders. Development of young and age at first flight are not well known.

Feeding Behavior

Will perch quietly, turning and tilting its head slowly as it peers about. After spotting a choice berry, or an insect sitting on a leaf, the bird will fly out and hover as it plucks the item, and then swoop away to another perch. Also, at times may fly up to catch insects in mid-air.


Mostly insects and fruits. Diet not known in detail. Feeds on a wide variety of insects, especially big ones such as katydids and large caterpillars. Also eats many small fruits and berries, such as those of madrone, especially in late summer and fall.


Breeding behavior is poorly known. Only a few nests have been observed, including one in Arizona. Breeding activity seems to be concentrated in late summer and early fall. Nest site is in cavity in tree. Those found so far have been in apparent old flicker holes in large dead or partly-dead trees, often growing well up on slopes of canyons. Nest cavities have been 25-70' above the ground.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

A recent arrival in United States, still present in extremely low numbers. On native range in Mexico, probably threatened by loss of habitat.