Bird Families

Cuban trogon


Trogons and quetzali - birds in the order Trogoniformesthat only supports one family, Trogonidae... The family contains 39 species in seven genera. The trogon fossil record dates back 49 million years to the mid-Eocene. They could be a member of the main radiation order of the Coraciiformes, or be closely related to mousebirds and owls. The word trogon is Greek for "gnawing" and refers to the fact that these birds gnaw holes in trees to make their nests.

Trogons are inhabitants of rainforests all over the world. The greatest variety is in the Neotropics, where four genera, containing 24 species occur. Genus Apaloderma contains three African varieties. Rhoda Harpactes and Apalharpactes, containing twelve species, are found in Southeast Asia.

They feed on insects and fruits, and their wide bills and weak legs reflect their diet and woody habits. Although their flight is fast, they refuse to control any distance. Trogons are usually non-migratory, although some species do take partial local movements. Trogons have soft, often colorful, feathers with distinctive male and female plumage. They are the only type of animal with a heterodactyl toe arrangement. They nest in holes dug into trees or termite nests, laying 2–4 white or pastel eggs.

Development and taxonomy

The position of the trogons within the Aves class has been a long-standing mystery.A variety of relationships have been suggested, including parrots, cuckoos, toucans, jacamars and puffbirds, rollers, owls, and nightjars. More recent morphological and molecular data indicated a relationship with Coliiformes. The unique arrangement of the toes (see morphology and flight) has led many to believe that trogons have no close relatives and place them in their own order, perhaps with as atypical mousebirds as their closest relatives.

The earliest formally described fossil specimen is a skull from the Fur Formation of the Lower Eocene in Denmark (54 mya). Other trogoniform fossils have been found in Messel pit deposits from the middle Eocene in Germany (49 mya), in the Oligocene rocks from Switzerland and Miocene France. The oldest New World trogon fossil from the comparatively recent Pleistocene (less than 2,588 mya).

The families were thought to be Old World origins despite the current wealth of the family, which is more diverse in the Neotropical New World. DNA evidence seemed to support African descent for trogons, with African descent Apalodermaseemingly primary in the family, and the other two lineages, Asian and American, interrupted between 20-36 million years ago. More recent research suggests that DNA evidence gives conflicting results regarding underlying phylogenetic relationships, so it is currently unknown if all existing trogons are descended from African or American ancestors or none.

Trogons are divided into three subfamilies, each reflecting one of these divisions, Aplodermatinae is an African subfamily and contains a single genus, Apaloderma. Harpactinae is an Asian subfamily and contains two genera, Harpactes and Apalharpactes. Apalharpactes, consisting of two species in Java and Sumatra, was only recently adopted as a separate genus from Harpactes... The remaining subfamily, Neotropical Trogoninae, contains the remainder of four genera, trogon, Priotelus, Pharomachrus and Euptilotis.

Priotelus were previously different (Temnotrogon in Haiti) and extremely ancient. Kin for two quetzals, Pharomachrus and Euptilotis possibly derived from the final and most numerous genus of trogons in the Neotropics, trogon... 2008 study of genetics trogon proposed a genus originating in Central America and spread to South America after the formation of the Isthmus of Panama (as part of the Great American Exchange), thus making the trogons a relatively recent arrival in South America.

Distribution and habitat

Most trogons are birds of tropical and subtropical forests. They have a cosmopolitan distribution in the humid worlds found in the Americas, Africa and Asia. Several species are distributed in the temperate zone, with one species, the graceful trogon, reaching the south of the United States specifically southern Arizona and the surrounding area. Africa's Narina Trogon is a bit exceptional in that it uses a wider range of habitats than any other trogon, ranging from dense forest to the fairly open savanna, and from the Equator to southern South Africa. It is the most widespread and successful of all trogons. Mexico's eared quetzal is also able to use more xeric habitats, but preferentially inhabits forests. Most of the other species are more restricted in their habitat, with a few species confined to the serene virgin forest.In forests, they tend to be found in the middle of a story, sometimes in a canopy.

Some species, especially the quetzali, are adapted to the cooler, mountainous forest. There are many closed species, these include many species found in the Greater Sundas, one species in the Philippines, and two monophyletic genera native to Cuba and Haiti, respectively. Outside South Asia and the Caribbean, however, trogons are generally absent from islands, especially oceans.

Trogons are generally sessile with no species known to have undertaken long migrations. A small number of species are known to make smaller migratory movements, especially mountainous species that move to lower altitudes during different seasons. This has been demonstrated using radio tracking in the magnificent quetzal in Costa Rica, and evidence has accumulated for many other species. The Narina Trogon of Africa is thought to undertake some localized short-distance migrations over parts of its range, for example Zimbabwe's plateau savanna birds depart after a breeding season. A complete picture of these movements, however, is lacking. Trogons are difficult to study because their thick tarsus (leg bones) make ringing examinations difficult.

Morphology and flight

Trogons, as a family, are fairly uniform in appearance, with compact bodies and long tails (very long in the case of quetzals), and short necks. Trogons range in size from 23cm, 40g scarlet-rumped trogon to 40cm,210g gorgeous quetzal (not including male quetzal tail headers). Their legs and feet are weak and short, and the trogons are extremely incapable of walking beyond the very random shuffle along the squad. They are even unable to wrap around on a branch without using their wings. The trogons have a leg muscle-to-body ratio of only 3 percent, the lowest known ratio of any bird. The arrangement of the toes on the feet of trogons is also unique among birds, essentially resembling two forward two reverse arrangements of zygodactyl parrots and other near-passerines, the actual toes are arranged with the usually inner hallux being the outer hind toe, an arrangement that is referred to as heterodactylous. A strong bill is short and a wide yawn, especially in eaten fruit quetzals, with a slight hook at the end. There is also a notch at the end of the bill, and many species have small serrations in the lower jaws. The skin is exceptionally soft, making preparation of research skin difficult for museum curators. Trogon skeletons are surprisingly thin, especially the skulls, which are very thin. The plumage of many species is iridescent, although most Asian species are not. African trogons are generally green on the back with red bellies. New World Trogons also have green or dark blue upperparts, but are more distinct in their lowerparts. The Asian species lean towards red underparts and brown backs.

The wings are short but strong, with a wing muscle ratio being about 22% of body weight.Despite the strength of their flight, trogons often do not fly or for long distances, usually flying no more than a few hundred meters at a time. Only mountainous species tend to make long distance flights. Shorter flights tend to be straight, and faster but longer flights are a little hilly. Their flight can be surprisingly quiet (for observers), although that of several species is reportedly quite noisy.


Trogon calls are generally loud and uncomplicated, consisting of monosyllabic shouts and whistles delivered in varying patterns and strings. The requirements of the quetzals and the two Caribbean clans are the most difficult. Among the Asiatic clans of the Sumatran trogon (Apalharpactes) is the most atypical claim of any trogon, research has not yet established whether the closely related Javanese trogon has a similar claim. Demands of a different Asiatic kind, Harpactesare surprisingly uniform. In addition to territorial and breeding demands given by males and females during breeding periods, trogons have been recorded as giving calls for aggression by rival males and alarms.


Trogons are generally dormant outside of infrequent feeding flights. It has been noted among bird watchers and biologists that "some of their great beauty [they are] notorious." their lack of other immediately attractive qualities. " Their lack of activity - perhaps a defense against predation, trogons on all continents have been reported to have crossed over on branches,to always keep their less brightly colored backs turned towards the observer, while their heads, which like owls can turn through 180 degrees, are observed at the observer. Trogons were reportedly hunted by hawks and carnivorous mammals, one report had a magnificent quetzal taken brooding by a young long-tailed cat.

Diet and feeding

Trogons feed mainly on insects, other arthropods and fruits, to a lesser extent some small vertebrates such as lizards. Among insect prey, one of the more important types, caterpillars, along with cuckoos, trogons are one of several groups of birds to hunt regularly. Some caterpillars are known to be venomous to trogons although, as Arsenura armida. The extent to which each food type is taken varies with geography and species. The three African trogons are exclusively insectivorous, while the Asian and American genera consume varying amounts of fruit. Diet correlates somewhat with size, with larger species eating more fruit and smaller species focusing on insects.

The prey is almost always done on the wing. A commonly used foraging technique - sortie - pick up flight where the trogon flies from observation altitude to target on another branch or in foliage. Once there the birds soar or stalls and grab the item before returning to its height to consume the item. This type of foraging is commonly used by some types of bird to obtain insect prey; in trogons and quetzals, it is also used to pluck fruit from trees.Insect prey can also be taken on the wing with trogon chasing flying insects in a similar manner to Old World flycatchers and drongos. Frogs, lizards and large insects on the ground can also be attacked from the air. More rarely, some trogons may shuffle along the branch to obtain insects, insect eggs, and infrequently nesting birds. Violaceous trogons will devour wasps and encountered wasp larvae while swarming nests.


Trogons are territorial and monogamous. Males will quickly respond to reproductions of their calls and repel other members of the same species and even other hole-nesting species from all of their nests. Men attract women by singing, and, in the case of dazzling quetzal, embarking on show flights. Some species have been observed in small flocks of 3–12 individuals before and sometimes during the breeding season, calling and chasing each other, but the function of these flocks is unclear.

Trogons are hollow nesting birds. Nests are dug into rotting wood or termite nests, with one species, violaceous trogon, nesting in wasp nests. Nest cavities can either deeply upward slope pipes that lead to fully enclosed chambers or much shallower open niches (from which the bird is visible). The nests are dug with a beak, accidentally giving the family its name. Digging a nest can be undertaken by the male alone or by both sexes. In the case of nests dug into tree trunks, the wood must be strong enough not to collapse, but soft enough to reveal.Trogons have been observed landing on dead tree trunks and slapping wood with their tails, presumably to test for firmness.

Trogon nests are thought to be usually misaligned. Between two to four eggs are laid in a nesting attempt. They are round and generally glossy white or slightly colored (hobby, gray, blue, or green), although they get more and more dirty during incubation. Both parents hatch eggs (except in the case of the bare-cheeked trogon, where apparently the male is not involved), with the male taking one long incubation restriction a day and the female hatching the rest of the time. Incubation seems to start after the last egg has been laid. The incubation period varies in species, usually lasting between 16-19 days. When hatching chicks are fledgling, blind and naked. Chicks acquire feathers quickly in some mountainous species, in the case of the mountain trogon in a week, but more slowly in lowland species like the black-headed trogon, which can take twice as long. The settling period varies in species and size, with smaller species usually taking 16 to 17 days to fledge, whereas large species can take as long as 30 days, although 23–25 days is more typical.

Relationships with people

Trogons and quetzals are considered “among the most beautiful of birds,” yet they are also often reclusive and rarely seen. Little is known about much of their biology and much of what is known about them comes from the study of neotropical species by ornithologist Alexander Skoch.Trogons are nonetheless popular birds with birdwatchers, and there is a modest ecotourism industry in particular to view quetzals in Central America.

Distribution of the Cuban trogon

The Cuban Trogon is an endemic species of the island of Cuba.

It is found in the provinces of Oriente and the Sierra Maestre. Inhabits the mountainous areas of the Sierra del Escambray. This bird species is distributed in Santa Clara. Occasionally observed in the Sierra del los Organos and in the Pinar del Rio province. The Cuban trogon lives on the territory of several small islets located in the Caribbean Sea.

Habitats of the Cuban trogon

The Cuban trogon is found in all forest areas, wet and dry. It spreads in old woodlands, degraded forests, shrubs near rivers. This type of bird usually hides in the crowns of trees. Inhabits pine forests with tall pines. It is found in a wide variety of places, but prefers mountainous areas.

The Cuban Trogon is an endemic species of the island of Cuba.

External signs of the Cuban trogon

The Cuban trogon is a small bird with a body size of 23-25 ​​cm and a weight of 47-75 gr. The tail is about fifteen centimeters long.

The plumage in the upper part is blue-green, iridescent from the back to the base of the tail. Tail feathers are blue-dark green, two-layered. On the upper part of the wings, large white spots on the fans are visible, and white grooves on the outer primary feathers.

Above the tail, blue-dark green. The tail feathers have a special shape. The ends of the feathers in the center are like tufts, and the ends of the three pairs of tail feathers have an outer blackish base with white indentations.They extend beyond the outer edge, which is clearly visible from the bottom of the tail. In addition, the tail feathers are layered to form a convex pattern. Such a tail is characteristic of all trogons. The color of the plumage of the female and the male is the same. The underside of the body, the chest is grayish-white, while the plumage on the belly is red to the very undertail. Undertail feathers are white.

This type of bird usually hides in the crowns of trees.

The plumage of the head and face is black, while the crown and nape of the head are blue-violet. The cheekbones, sides of the neck, chin and throat are white.

The beak is reddish, the culmen is dark gray. The length of the tongue is at least 10 mm, it is a special device for feeding on nectar. The iris is red. Paws and toes rosâtres with black claws. The beak is dark red. In the Cuban trogon, the first and second toes point backward, while the third and fourth toes point forward. This arrangement of the fingers is typical for trogons and is necessary for sitting on branches. In this case, the fingers tightly cover the shoot. The female and male have the same plumage color, only the dark red belly is colored paler. The body size of the female is slightly smaller than the male. The feather cover of young Cuban trogons has not been described.

Cuban trogon - small bird

Subspecies of the Cuban trogon

Two subspecies of the Cuban trogon are officially recognized:

  1. P. t. temnurus is found on the island of Cuba, including the extensive shoals in the northern province of Camaguey (Guajaba and Sabinal).
  2. P. t. vescus is distributed on the Isle of Pines. The sizes of individuals of this subspecies are smaller, but the beak is longer.

Nutritional features of the Cuban trogon

The diet of Cuban trogons is based on nectar, buds and flowers. But these birds also feed on insects, fruits, berries.

Features of the behavior of the Cuban trogon

Cuban trogons mostly live in pairs and spend most of their time sitting motionless in one erect posture. Birds tend to be more active in the early morning and late afternoon. They float easily when powered.

The diet of Cuban trogons is based on nectar, buds and flowers.

They lead a sedentary lifestyle, make local seasonal movements within forests, shrub habitats and adjacent areas of vegetation. Such migrations are due to the presence of food in a particular area. The flight of the Cuban trogons is undulating and noisy. Even one pair of birds is capable of making loud cries. The males sing on the branch of a tree, while the song is being sung, its tail is seized with a restless tremor.

In addition, Cuban trogons imitate hoarse barking, giggling, menacing screams and sad trills.

Cuban trogons mostly live in pairs

Keeping a Cuban trogon in captivity

The colorful plumage of the Cuban trogon attracts the attention of many bird lovers. But this species of birds has not adapted to survival in a cage or aviary. Their feathers first fall out, then they stop eating and die.

Cuban trogons breed between May and August.

Food specialization and reproduction under certain conditions make it impossible to keep Cuban trogons in a cage.

Conservation status of the Cuban trogon

The Cuban trogon is a fairly widespread bird species in Cuba.Less common on Guajaba, Romano and Sabinal. Also rare in the Jardines del Rey (Sabana Camaguey) archipelago.

Subspecies P. t. vescus was once widely settled in the southern part of Pen Island, but its presence in these areas is now rare. The number of individuals is stable and is estimated at 5000 pairs. There are no visible threats to the existence of the species. The Cuban trogon has the status of a species with minimal threats to its numbers.

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