Breeding condition white-tipped quetzals have been collected in the Santa Marta mountains between January and April. This period coincides with the end of the dry season, as the rainy season in the north coast of Colombia starts around the beginning of May (Cleef et al 1984). Nesting pairs have been observed during March and August (Hilty and Brown 1986).
Observations support the idea that the quetzal's reproductive cycle is closely coupled with general fruit availability (Wheelwright 1986); the main reproductive activities (courtship, nesting, chick rearing) occur when fruits are most abundant in the cloud forest. This may allow the birds to face this high energy-demanding phase when food abundance is highest, which may increase the probability of successful chick rearing (Solórzano et al. 2000).
White-tipped quetzal nests are located in trees, sometimes in old woodpecker holes and often in dead or rotting trunks or stubs, from 4–10 m above the ground (Meyer de Schauensee and Phelps 1978; Hilty and Brown 1986; Johnsgard 2000). Todd and Carriker (1922) observed a nest in an old cavity, excavated by a Crimson-crested Woodpecker, in a dead snag, approximately 5 m above the ground at an elevation of 1600 m.
Pharomachrus quetzals are both primary and secondary cavity nesters (Brightsmith 2005a; Monterrubio-Rico and Escalante-Pliego 2006).
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No information is available regarding the incubation and nestling periods of P. fulgidus, but Skutch (1945) describes the closely related Resplendent Quetzal (P. mocinno) as having an incubation period of approximately 18 days, and a nestling period of approximately 30 days .