Eared Quetzal Euptilotis neoxenus

  • Order: Trogoniformes
  • Family: Trogonidae
  • Monotypic
  • Authors: Eric R. Gulson



Eared Quetzal forages in short, sallying bouts, beginning from a perch in a tree and generally finishing by perching in the same tree, sometimes the same branch. When feeding on fruit, they forage in bursts of 5 to 10 minutes, seize berries from the crown foliage, before resting on a perch for an hour or more (Taylor 1994). In Arizona, they reportedly remain near berry sources for days at a time (Taylor 1994).

When foraging for insects, the birds generally stay midway up the highest pines, above the surrounding oaks (Marshall 1957). Insects are only occasionally hawked, and the birds may sometimes flutter in a spiral down a tree’s trunk, fanning its tail (Taylor 1994). They more frequently 'sally-stall', or fly upwards towards a clump of leaves, glean an arthropod from the pine foliage while stalling vertically, and level off flying to perch (Marshall 1957, Lammertink et al. 1996). After catching a moth, one bird beat it against its perch several times before eating it whole (Lammertink et al. 1996).

Eared Quetzals have been reported to both travel large distances daily in their foraging bouts (such as thrice travelling a 3 km canyon; Marshall 1957) and to remain in a very small area throughout the day (such as a 0.32 km stretch of bushes; Taylor 1994). When followed by people, one individual traveled a distance of 2.4 km, including a 45 meter vertical flight up a cliff face followed by an undulating flight well above the canopy, putting much more effort than typical for other trogons (Taylor 1994). Eared Quetzal is also very wary, and will often not allow people to approach it closer than 100 meters, which may explain why they have often been considered rare (Lammertink et al. 1996).


Eared Quetzal is reported to have a very large territory, which it travels extensively while foraging. Marshall (1957) reports three singing males in three linear miles (4.8 km), while Taylor (1994) reports that two quetzal groups in Arizona in 1977 occupied linear ranges of 3.5 and 4.6 miles (5.6 km and 7.4 km respectively). However, no studies were found that specifically addressed territory size, density, or defense in this species.

Sexual Behavior

Eared Quetzal is socially monogamous, as only two individuals are observed incubating and they are often only seen in pairs during the breeding season (Gonzalez-Rojas et al. 2008, Lammertink et al. 1996).
No information was found regarding extra-pair copulations or courtship displays.

Social and interspecific behavior

During the breeding season, Eared Quetzal is only found in pairs or individually. However, from October to March, the birds form flocks that can include numerous individuals (Lammertink et al. 1996). Lammertink et al. (1996) report a flock of at least 16, another of 10, four flocks of 3-4 birds, and two pairs in this period. As some of these flocks are too large to be a single pair and its brood, they indicate a certain level of intraspecific association (Navarro-Singüenza and Lammertink 2000).

Several agonistic interactions have been observed between Eared Quetzal and the smaller Elegant Trogon (Trogon elegans). A male trogon chased a male quetzal away from the riparian zone of a canyon twice, flying faster than its larger relative and attacking upwards from each perch. The quetzal, once followed by its mate, called loudly, but the trogon was silent (Taylor 1994). Taylor (1994) suggests that it may be competition with Elegant Trogon that has kept the quetzal out of Arizona. When feeding on madrone berries, Eared Quetzal has been seen alongside American Robins (Turdus migratorius), Hermit Thrushes (Catharus guttatus), Northern Flickers (Colaptes auratus), Red-naped Sapsuckers (Sphyrapicus nuchalis), Acorn Woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus), Mountain Trogons (Trogon mexicanus), and Aztec Thrushes (Ridgwayia pinicola) in Arizona and Durango with no incidences. However, in Arizona American Robins, the most common bird at these aggregations, apparently would not feed from a bush occupied by the quetzal (Taylor 1994).


No information found.

Recommended Citation

Gulson, E. R. (2013). Eared Quetzal (Euptilotis neoxenus), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.earque.01