Quetzal Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Kristin Pia Hayman

Kristin taught for over 10 years in the elementary classroom. She holds a B.A. in Journalism as well as a Master's Degree in Elementary Education.

The quetzal is a rare and beautiful bird found mainly in Central and South America. It is known for its vibrant colors and long tail feathers. There are six different species of these birds, each with their own characteristics.

A Sacred Bird

Did you know that some ancient societies used to think of a bird as one of the most sacred symbols? They did! The ancient Mayan and Aztec societies of Central and South America looked to the quetzal as a bird that represented power and wealth.

These birds are found mainly in the tropical climates of Central and South America. There are actually six different species of quetzals: the white-tipped quetzal, the golden-headed quetzal, the pavonine quetzal, the crested quetzal, the resplendent quetzal, and the eared quetzal.

In addition to the quetzal being a sacred bird to the Mayans and Aztecs, the quetzal is important to many countries today. The resplendent quetzal is a national symbol of the country of Guatemala. It's on their flag and represents the country. Get this - even the money is Guatemala is called the ''quetzal'' after the bird.

The quetzal is a symbol of the country of Guatemala

A Beautiful Bird

The quetzal is an amazingly beautiful bird, one that birdwatchers travel from all over the world to see. Some people even consider it one of the most beautiful birds on Earth. With its vibrant tropical colors and long tail feathers, the quetzals are unique indeed. Each species of quetzal looks a little different, but they are all impressive in their own way. Most quetzals are bright blue, green, and red. In some species, the males grow tail feathers up to three feet long!

A beautiful quetzal on its perch

A Busy Bird

These birds love high altitudes and can be found in pine forests, rainforests, and mountains. Because they make their nests inside of trees, it's hard for bird scientists to study much about their nesting habits. What they do know is that most quetzals lay two pale blue eggs at a time. Both the mother and father bird feed their young until they are old enough to go out on their own.

The quetzal eats a diet of insects and fruit. It eats larger insects like caterpillars and katydids and sometimes even eats lizards. A unique trait of these birds is that they perch, or sit, quietly until they spot an insect. The quetzal will slowly turn its head to look around, and then quickly fly out and hover over the insect before gobbling it up and flying away. Sometimes they will even catch flying insects right out of the air. Yummy!

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