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White-tipped Quetzal Pharomachrus fulgidus



Distinguishing Characteristics

The White-tipped Quetzal (Pharomachrus fulgidus) is the only quetzal in its range. Adult males of the White-tipped Quetzal resemble the Golden-headed (P. auriceps) and Pavonine (P. pavoninus) quetzals, but in the former, forehead feathers are longer and more crest-like, the head is more golden-toned, and the mostly black outer retrices have broad white tips occupying about a third of their length (thus the name White-tipped Quetzal).

Similar Species

The White-tipped Quetzal (Pharomachrus fulgidus) is very similar to the Crested Quetzal (P. antisianus). ♂ White-tipped is differentiated from ♂ Crested by a shorter frontal crest, the crown is golden bronze contrasting with the back, and the underside of the tail is black with only the terminal third of outer 3 tail feathers white. ♀ White-tipped is like ♀ Crested, but the crown is bronzy green, the breast is greener than the ♀ Crested, and the outer 3 tail feathers are tipped white and barred white near tip (Meyer de Schauensee and Phelps 1978; Hilty and Brown 1986).

Pharomachrus fulgidus and P. antisianus may form a superspecies (Remsen et al. 2016); some authors consider them conspecific. Other authors suspect that P. fulgidus may be part of the P. auriceps–P. pavonius superspecies (Collar 2001; Remsen et al. 2016).

Pharomachrus fulgidus festatus of the Santa Marta mountains was formerly considered a separate species from P. fulgidus, but Peters (1945) treated them as conspecific, based on his examination of specimens and subsequent discussion (Peters 1929).

Detailed Description

Descriptions from Gould (1838), Boucard (1891), Bangs (1899), Johnsgard (2000), and Hilty (2003).

Adult male (festatus): Head, back, rump, breast, upper tail-coverts, and wing-coverts iridescent green, appearing bronzy in some lights, especially on head, throat, and upper tail-coverts; forehead with small frontal crest of antrose feathers; abdomen and under tail-coverts scarlet-vermilion; primaries, secondaries, tertials, and greater wing-coverts black; flanks and sides black, black feathers mostly concealed; tail black, vanes of three outermost retrices with grayish white tips; white tips of outermost retrix 50 mm long, next 55mm, and next 32 mm long.

Adult female (festatus): Less brilliant than male; no frontal crest on forehead; throat and breast mixed with much drab brown; outer edges of primaries yellowish brown; breast brownish gray, bordered by green band; abdomen pink;tail black, three outermost retrices narrowly tipped with white, terminal parts of feathers crossed with two or three black bars; outermost retrix with three white spots on outer vane below lowest crossbar.

Immature male: Remiges edged with buff on outer edges; scapulars and greater wing-coverts intermixed with buff; tips of outer retrices suffused with white, these feathers narrower and more pointed than in adults.

Immature female: Wing and head plumages as in immature male; breast brown, as in adult female.


Not described for P. fulgidus. The details of molt in trogons are little studied, but other members of the Trogonidae have been described by Pyle(1997)1 and Howell (2014), and it is expected that all New World trogons closely resemble the general description. Trogons nest in cavities and the altricial young hatch naked, quickly molting directly into their juvenal plumage without any appreciable downy stage. This naked-to-feathered progression is similar to that of kingfishers and woodpeckers and may be an ancestral characteristic or perhaps simply a function of nesting in cavities where the temperature is fairly constant and down is not needed for protection or temperature regulation. Trogons fledge in about three weeks and attain adult plumage aspect with their second prebasic molt; the age of first breeding is likely one to two years (Howell 2014).

Trogons have a complex basic molt strategy, and their primary molt strategy appears to follow the standard P1 to P10 sequence (Howell 2014). The first prebasic molt is partial in extent, involving the head and body feathers plus a variable number of upperwing coverts and sometimes tertials. Subsequent prebasic molts are usually complete, although occasionally one or two secondaries are retained. Primary coverts are typically replace along with the associated primaries. Trogons do not experience prealternate molts. Pneumaticization probably does not complete (Pyle 1997). Replacement of the central retrices, while to be expected, has not been documented in the trogons (Howell 2014).

Bare Parts

Adult male: bill butter yellow; iris hazel to dark-red; feet and toes brownish black.

Adult female: bill yellowish-brown to coppery-gray; iris brown; feet and toes brownish black.


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Recommended Citation

White-tipped Quetzal (Pharomachrus fulgidus), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: