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Let’s Talk About Birds – The Resplendent Quetzal

Resplendent QuetzalResplendent Quetzals are startling emerald jewels of the cloud forest. They shimmer from one shade to another, blending almost magically with the wet green background of their constantly misty high altitude homes. Their color seems ephemeral for a reason; quetzals are not green at all. It’s hard to believe, but quetzals are actually brown.

They are colored by melanin, the same pigment that causes tanning in humans. Highly magnified, quetzal feathers are alternately translucent and dark brown. The magic comes from melanin pigment stripes regularly spaced 5,400 angstroms apart causing interference that “traps” most colors of light but reflects green light, which bounces back to your eye.

A similar interference pattern with different spacing on Morpho butterfly wings are what make them appear blue.

The optimal viewing season corresponds with the breeding season which varies from February through July over the quetzal’s range in the mountain cloud forests from Southern Mexico to Panama.

Let’s Talk About Birds

Blue Crowned Mot MotThis month’s bird is not only colorful, but also uniquely interesting in appearance and behavior.

The Lesson’s Mot Mot, formerly known as the Blue-Crowned Mot Mot, features a long tail with racquet-tipped feathers. The tail feathers are sometimes seen swinging from side to side in a pendulum-type of motion. This happens when the Mot Mot feels threatened. This is its way of communicating to the prey that, “I see you so don’t waste your time and energy in trying to attack me”

The definitive light blue crown features feathers that appear to be iridescent and is quite striking when seen in the sunlight. However, they prefer to stay in the shadows and may come down to the ground to feed on insects and lizards.

I have seen and photographed them in several locations throughout the Southern Zone, including my hometown area of Dominical.

Just one of the many types of colorful birds that you can find when visiting our amazing area.

Paul Gerace, photosofcostarica.com

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