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