The red and green Christmas plumage and the tropical nature of the male Elegant Trogon make this a good bird counterpart to the tropical poinsettias seen this time of year. Typically thought of as a summer bird, a few Elegant Trogons are found during most winters in Sycamore Canyon, AZ (often found during the Atascosa Highlands Christmas Bird Count).
Elegant TroganTrogon elegans
Formerly: Coppery-tailed Trogon
Since the 1890s, the possibility of seeing a trogon has lured birdwatchers to southern Arizona. With its brilliant metallic colors and odd croaking call, the Elegant Trogon brings an exotic touch to the wooded canyons and streamside sycamores where it lives. The observer who finds one may get to watch it at leisure: rather lethargic, the trogon may sit upright on one perch for several minutes, finally departing through the trees with an undulating flight.
Field MarksNote the erect posture, slightly parrotlike profile, geranium red belly. Male: Head, chest, and upperparts deep glossy green, separated from the red belly by a narrow white band across the breast. Tail square-tipped, moderately long; bill yellow. Female: Brown, not green; less red on underparts. Note the white mark on the cheek.
Size11-12" (28-30 cm)
VoiceA series of low, coarse notes, suggesting a hen Turkey; kowm kowm kowm kowm kowm kowm or koa, koa, koa, etc.
RangeBreeds from mountains of southeastern Arizona south to Costa Rica. Winters south of the United States. Casual southwestern New Mexico, Texas (Big Bend).
MigrationIn Arizona, most arrive in April and May, depart during September and October. One or two sometimes remain through winter along streams at low elevations. Throughout most of range, a permanent resident. Sometimes strays into Texas from northeastern Mexico.
HabitatMountain forests, pine-oak or sycamore canyons. In Arizona, breeds in canyons through the pine-oak zone of mountains, almost always where sycamores grow along flowing streams. In Mexico and Central America, lives in canyons and scrubby lowland woods in relatively dry areas, avoiding tall rain forest.
FeedingDiet: Mostly insects and fruits. Feeds on a wide variety of insects, especially big ones such as katydids, cicadas, walkingsticks, and large caterpillars. Will also eat small lizards. Also eats many small fruits and berries, such as chokecherry and wild grape, especially in late summer and fall.
Behavior: When foraging, perches upright, peering about rather slowly; then flutters up and takes insect or fruit in its bill while hovering momentarily before dropping to another perch.
NestingMale defends nesting territory with repeated calling in spring. In courtship, male leads female to potential nest sites, calling from inside cavity; female enters to indicate acceptance.
Nest: Site is in cavity in tree. In Arizona, usually in old flicker hole in dead tree or limb, especially in sycamores; 8-50' above the ground, typically about 25-26' up. Sometimes competes actively for nest sites with other birds, such as Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers. Little or no nest material added, eggs laid on bottom of cavity or on accumulated debris.
Eggs: 2, sometimes 3, occasionally 4. Incubation is by both parents, 22-23 days; female incubates at night and at midday, male in early morning and late afternoon.
Young: Cared for and fed by both parents. Young leave the nest about 20-23 days after hatching but are dependent on their parents for a few more weeks.
ConservationProbably has gradually increased in Arizona during the 20th century; up to 50 pairs now nest there. Vulnerable to disturbance by observers while nesting.