A male Quetzal at rest (see the tail) and in flight

The Quetzal is a bird which is found in the montane rain forests of Central America. The future of the Quetzal is certain extinction, unless something is done now to protect its habitat.

Worth mentioning is the description of a Quetzal by Roger Tory Peterson and Edward Chalif in their FIELD GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF MEXICO. "The most spectacular bird in the New World." The male is "intense emerald and golden green with red belly and white undertail" The body measures about fifteen inches but the tail, rich in iridescent blues and greens above and subtle white below, can extend as much as thirty inches. "

To watch this bird fly with its tail undulating behind is to understand why it is called the Resplendent Quetzal. The Quetzal is also the most sacred symbol of the highly advanced Mesoamerican civilization, the Mayas, whose descendants are eighty percent of the present day inhabitants of Guatemala and the neighboring Mexican states of Yucatan, Quintano Roo, and Chiapas. To the ancient Mayas the Quetzal symbolized freedom and wealth. Freedom, because a Quetzal will die in captivity; wealth, because the Mayas were traders, and quetzal feathers along with jade were their most sought after treasures. These were traded by the Mayas as far north as the central valley of Mexico and as far south as the Empire of the Incas (over three thousand miles) an area that is about eight times the size of their home territory.

Today the male Quetzal appears on the Guatemalan flag and the name "Quetzal" is used as a monetary unit. Modern day Mayas are very traditionalist and see the Quetzal as a symbol of their proud way of life. And to anybody that has seen the flight of a Quetzal or heard its story it will always mean freedom.

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