White-tipped Quetzal Pharomachrus fulgidus



  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Distribution of the White-tipped Quetzal
eBird range map for White-tipped Quetzal

Generated from eBird observations (Year-Round, 1900-present)

Distribution in the Americas


Upper tropical and subtropical zones (1500–2500 m) in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (Rodner et al. 2000).


Upper tropical and subtropical zones. Found in the coastal cordillera from Yaracuy to Miranda; the interior cordillera on Cerro Golfo Triste; the eastern cordillera in eastern Anzoátegui, northern Monagas, and Sucre east to Cerro Humo (Meyer de Schaunensee and Phelps 1978). The distribution of this bird in Venezuela includes the Cordillera de la Costa, from Yaracuy to Miranda, the interior in the state of Miranda Cordillera, and the eastern part of the Cordillera de la Costa, (states Anzoategui, Sucre, and Monagas), always in heights ranging from 900 to 2000 m, in the cloud forests and coffee plantations, and conucos vicinity of the edge of the clearing (Yepez-Tomayo 1982).


Pharomachrus fulgidus remains of uncertain status in Guyana. References to Guyana (Stotz et al. 1996; Rodner et al. 2000) perhaps stem from Gould (1838) where he states,

“I am unable to state the precise locality inhabited by this species; but judging from the circumstance of its being contained in a collection which I believe has been received from Guiana, we may reasonable conclude that that country is its native habitat.”

Meyer de Schauensee (1959) explains Gould’s Guiana reference is actually to Cumbre de Valencia, Carabobo, Venezuela. Berlioz (1955) reports an adult specimen, collected by Whitely in British Guiana (Guyana), in the Museum National D’Histoire Naturelle, Paris. Dorst considers the specimen undoubtedly came from British Guiana (Snyder 1966, per comm). The nearest known P. fulgidus range is 800 km away in Venezuela. The collection location of this specimen remains problematic.

Distribution outside the Americas

Endemic to the Americas.


White-tipped quetzals, like the golden-headed and crested quetzals, are cloud forest birds: the white-tipped usually occurs at 900–1900 m elevation in Venezuela but at 1500–2500 m in Colombia’s Santa Marta mountains; the crested higher at 1200–3000 m; and the golden-headed at 2000–3100. In contrast, the pavonine quetzal occurs in lowland rain forest habitats up to 700 m (Johnsgard 2000).

The white-tipped quetzal ranges from 900–2500 m, in subtropical to temperate humid forests, including cloud forests, secondary forests, forest remnants, forest edges, and moist ravines in coffee plantations. It occurs at altitudes of 900–1900 m in Venezuela (Meyer de Schauensee & Phelps 1978) and at 1500–2500 m in Colombia (Todd & Carriker 1922; Hilty & Brown 1986).

White-tipped quetzal was reported at an elevation of 725–775 m in a cafetel in Cucuchica, Merida, Venezuela (Jones et al. 2002).

Historical changes

None reported.

Fossil history

Trogoniformes are well characterized by the unique heterodactyl foot in which the second toe permanently directs backwards. Their earliest fossil records, not only from Europe but in general, are an isolated cranium from the Fur Formation and a tarsometatarsus from the London Clay. The latter specimen clearly shows the tarsometatarsal morphology that is characteristic for the heterodactyl foot. A complete skeleton of an as yet undescribed trogon has also been identified in Messel. Articulated skeletons of Lower Oligocene trogons were described from Matt in Switzerland and Céreste in France. The Céreste trogon, Primotrogon wintersteini Mayr 1999, is shown to be outside crown-group Trogoniformes by its plesiomorphic skull morphology and the absence of derived characters of the coracoid (Mayr, 2005b).

The significant similarity between fossilized trogons and extant trogons implies that trogons as a taxonomic group morphologically has stayed nearly stationary through time. The palaeoenvironment and palaeoclimate of northern Europe in late Paleocene and early Eocene corresponds well with that in which extant trogons live, and trogons may have followed the movement of the (sub-)tropical climatic belt toward the equator through the Cenozoic rather than adapt to new climatic and environmental conditions (Kristoffersen 2002).

Although there is an unpublished record of a putative stem group representative from the early Eocene North America (Weidig 2003), all unambiguously identified Eocene trogon fossils and all Oligocene and Miocene records are from the Old World, i.e., Europe.

The fact that successive sister taxa of crown group Trogonidae occur in European fossil sites is most parsimoniously explained by the assumption that the lineage leading to crown group Trogoniformes evolved in the Old World, and trogons dispersed into the New World in the late Paleogene or early Neogene (when the first modern-type trogons are known)(Mayr 2009).

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: https://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/Species-Account/nb/species/whtque1