quetzal (kĕtsälˈ) [key] or quezal kāsälˈ, common name for a magnificent bird of the family Trogonidae (trogon family), found in the rain forests from S Mexico to Costa Rica at altitudes of up to 9,000 ft (2,745 m). It is strikingly beautiful, with a crested head, bronze-green back, and crimson and white underparts. Quetzals nest in holes, and lay from two to four eggs per clutch. The male shares incubation duties with the female. The nesting hole has a single entrance, not two as was once believed. The Aztec and Maya used the 2-ft (61-cm) shimmering green tail plumes of the breeding male ceremonially and worshiped the bird as the god of the air, associating it with the god Quetzalcoatl. The quetzal, Pharomachrus mocino, is the national bird of Guatemala, and a monetary unit of the country is also called a quetzal. Quetzals are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Trogoniformes, family Trogonidae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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