And the Oscar Goes to…

male back view

male back view

Just like yesterday’s 86th Annual Academy Awards Ceremony, you’ll have to wait a sec for the announcement of who wins this Best Foreign Bird Award.  This Oscar goes to the most beautiful bird in all the land.

I saw these individuals in the Chiriqui highlands in Costa Rica, about 50 miles south of San Jose, their capital.

At the end of a winding, bumpy one-lane dirt road, we spent several nights at the Savegre Hotel.  We had ventured to Costa Rica on our own, pre-arranged for a few guides to show us around certain areas.  One of our goals was to see this bird.  We met our guide at dawn on our first morning there and piled all our stuff into his Range Rover.

male front view

male front view

As we started down the road, my partner asked, “What are the chances of seeing the…oh my God, I see one.”  We were out of that car in seconds.  In a tree beside the road, the bird was silently perched in a lower limb; and we lived our first moment in the company of the Resplendent Quetzal.

There.  The envelope has been opened.  Let’s hear his speech.

Ahem.  The bird is unable to speak because, what’s that?  He’s spitting out an avocado pit.  Right onto the red carpet.

Shimmering in iridescence, his back was several shades of green and blue, and his long “tail” feathers were extended about 15 inches beyond the primary tail.  With every camera out, we were frantically snapping and viewing, thrilled beyond belief.  At first we just saw one pair, then we saw several pair.  They were all in avocado trees, thoroughly enjoying one of their favorite meals.

We stayed there in that one spot for nearly an hour.  It was a remote mountain valley deep in a nature preserve, but there were still eco-tourists like us who came here to find the glittery long-tailed Pharomachrus mocinno.  When we had first pulled up, ours was the only vehicle.  As the hour flew by, more and more people stopped until we had a serious traffic jam of numerous scattered Land Rovers, a tour van, and a pick-up truck filled with potatoes.  All vehicles were abandoned, and dozens of birders, guides, photographers, drivers and even the potato farmer were under the tree gazing upward…all of us mesmerized.

Despite the mass of cars and people, it was silent when the last male flew away.  That long, wispy tail elegantly trailing behind his dazzling blue-green back.  To us it was an ephemeral experience, to him it was a search for more avocados.

Female front view.  Her back is shimmery blue-green.

Female front view. Her back is shimmery blue-green.

And even though it is six years and many hundreds of bird species later, I still treasure that January 10th, and I still give him the Best Foreign Bird Award.


12 thoughts on “And the Oscar Goes to…

  1. It is resplendent, indeed. Imagine how it would shine on the red carpet! How big is it? It must be quite large to be able to spit out an avocado pit without choking. I hope you and your comrades enjoyed watching the Academy Awards last night. I was thinking of you! Thanks, as always, for an informative and interesting posting.

    • Thanks Nan. Both genders of this lovely bird are about 15 inches long, and the male has an additional 15 inches of plumage. The avocados they eat are wild, so they are slightly smaller than the cultivated ones we have in our country.

  2. Thanks for introducing me to the quetzal. I’ve never heard of it, but it certainly is beautiful. I can’t help wondering what the call is like. Is it melodious, or, like many of our Australian parrots, does it have a raucous voice? I’m hoping melodious. 🙂 Lisa

    • The resplendent quetzal is mostly silent, but there were a few sounds. It was a soft mewing sound, and very much like other trogons. It’s soft because it comes from the throat. Not really melodious, but not raucous like parrots either. Great question, thanks Lisa.

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