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Trogons - Colourful Birds of the Americas

TROGONS Trogonidae (Species in family 39)

resplendent-quetzal-4Trogons are a small group of birds often with stunningly coloured plumage, worthy icons of the exuberance of the tropics. Well represented in the Neotropics (especially in Central America), they also occur in Africa and the Oriental region, although in reduced variety. Their appearance is distinctive, and their phylogenetic relationships are obscure. Almost half of the family is in the familiar genus Trogon. Trogons are either citrus-bellied (lemon or orange) or red-bellied. Males have much richer plumage above, with shimmering greens and blues predominating, while females tend to be attired in more sombre tones. Undertail patterns typically differ between the sexes, and males use their more distinctive patterns in courtship.

Trogons are birds of the forest, ranging from humid lowlands to mountain cloud forests. Although such magnificently coloured birds, they are more often heard than seen. violaceous-trogon-1Their hollow hoots have a haunting quality, and it can be very difficult to locate a perched bird until it moves. Trogons live in pairs or solitarily, scanning the foliage for caterpillars and other largish arthropods, snatching prey from leaves or limbs by hovering. At other times they fly-catch and also frequent fruiting trees. The bill is broad and surrounded by bristles, the neck is short and the eyes large, which must be helpful for finding food in the dark interiors of woodland.

Despite their long association with human culture, trogons remain poorly served by published study and very little is known about them. Much of the existing ecological information comes from studies of a few neotropical species undertaken in the 1930s and 1940s by Alexander Skutch in Costa Rica and Guatemala, and more recent field studies of the Elegant Trogon at the northern extremity of the range. orange-bellied-trogon-4Longstanding uncertainties exist about the relations and origins of trogons. Kingfishers and their allies were most often nominated as the trogons' closest allies and a New World origin was assumed because most trogon species are now found in the neotropics. However, recent studies have a leaning towards placing trogons in a separate order, Trogoniformes, with possible affinities to the African mousebirds, and there is also some reasonably strong evidence for supporting an Old World origin.

You can join us on our tour to Costa Rica in February 2011 and get to see many of these fine birds firsthand!

Alternatively, for those wishing to travel later in the year, then our tour to Ecuador will also produce several members of the Trogon family.

Great for Tanagers
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over 100 different species
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