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Any of several tropical arboreal, short-billed, fruit-eating birds (genus Pharomachrus) in the trogon family (Trogonidae), whose weak feet have, uniquely, the second toe directed backward. It was the sacred bird of the ancient Mayas and Aztecs. Today the quetzal, found in remote parts of cloud forests from southern Mexico to Bolivia, is the national emblem of Guatemala (whose monetary unit is the quetzal). The resplendent, or Guatemalan, quetzal is about 50 in. (125 cm) long. Long blue-green plumes cover the tail; the breast and head, with a rounded hairlike crest, are gold-green; the blue back has a curly gold-tinged mantle; and the belly is red. The quetzal is now listed as endangered.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on quetzal, visit Britannica.com.