Alfredo Fernandez

Quetzals - Peruvian Forest Gems

There are 5 species of Quetzal and 3 of them live in the moist cloud covered forests of the Eastern Peruvian wilderness. All species are only found in the American tropics and all wear a brightly colored garb of red, blue and green feathers. The name Quetzal is reputedly derived from the Aztec language and means ‘brightly colored tail feather’, which indeed they have. Stunning, vocal and brightly colored they play a great part in the folklore of indigenous peoples of the Amazonian and cloud forests of Peru.

Some of the popular destinations for visitors to Peru where Quetzals are to be found include the Amazon Rainforests of the Pacaya- Saimiria Reserve near Iquitos, the Tambopata National Park near Puerto Maldonado and even the Machu-Picchu Sanctuary. The Pavonine Quetzal is found whilst quietly walking along trails in the Amazon lowlands and often advertises its presence with a haunting song. The Golden-headed and Crested Quetzals prefer the more moss and lichen laden wet forests of the ceja de selva (“eye-brow of the jungle”), as the cloud forests on the east slope of the Andes are called. These largely solitary birds feed on fruits, berries, insects and small vertebrates (such as frogs). They perch solely and quietly in the dense canopies of fruiting trees, plucking fruits in fluttering swoops and often returning to the same perch. They nest in holes in trees.

Even with their famous bright plumage, they can be hard to see in their natural wooded habitats.On a trip to the Manu Biosphere Reserve it is possible to see all three species that occur in Peru. Once seen they are a memory that will not be forgotten easily.

Text by Barry Walker.