One of the most fascinating frugivores – fruit eating 35-40 species of birds found in pantropical regions of the world are the family Trogonidae, commonly known as Trogons. My husband and I learned about frugivores and their contribution to maintaining rainforest on an Earthwatch trip to Australia (where no Trogons are found).
Trogans are large birds 8-14 inches tall, colorful, have a bill with several teeth (or serrated edge) on the upper mandible and small feet and large eyes adapted to the low light of dense forest. They typically are quite colorful, dark or green on the back, with red, yellow or orange bellies and sometimes a black-and-white crosshatch or band along the chest and on the under tail coverts. The sexes differ with the females being duller on the backs and having less of a metallic sheen Most times that we spied Trogons, they were either shy or curious about people seeking them. They typically sat below the canopy on a straight branch about 15-30 feet high, especially in trees with visible ripe fruit. Most like very dense forest often deciduous many times in mountainous terrain. Their diet consists of fruit and insects around the fruit. Juvenile tails are often colored or patterned differently than the adults. Most have distinctive calls-plaintive hoots, clucks and chatters.
Most Promising Location to See Trogons in the United States: Ramsey Canyon, Arizona
Ramsey Canyon, Arizona is owned and managed by Nature Conservancy. We spotted our first Trogon here after a May snow storm. The cold temperatures brought the Trogon to lower elevations. The United States only has one species of nesting Trogon, the Coppery-tailed Trogon (Trogon elegans) and it seen occasionally in the Texas, Arizona mountainous regions and in Central Mexico and Central America. A second species Eared Trogon (Eupotilotis neoxenus) has been spotted in Arizona above 6,000 feet.
Most Promising Locations to See Trogons in Costa Rica: Cahuita, Punta Uva, and Carara National Park, Costa Rica
In Cahuita, we took a hike from our hotel down the road and found Slaty-tailed Trogon(Trogon Massena) in a fruiting tree. Same for nearby Punta Uva where we spotted Violaceous Trogon (Trogon violacus). In Carara National Park near Jaco, we found Baird’s Trogon (Trogon bairdii). Later we spotted them again sitting over a creek. When we got out to look, some boys ran up calling and pointing and found a three-toed sloth in the tree next to it. Costa Rica has sever other species of Trogon (unlisted here).
Most Promising Locations to See Trogons in Panama: Punta Patino in the Darien, Gamboa, Finca Lerida, Panama
Our first spotting in Panama was of a Black-tailed Trogon (Trogon melanerus) at Punta Patino in the Darien. Later, on a tour of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute at Barro Colorado, we found Slaty-tailed Trogon (Trogon messina). Panama has several other species including Lattice-tailed (T. clathratus), Orange-bellied (T. aurantiiventris), Collared Trogon (T. collaris), Baird’s Trogon (T. bairdii), White-bellied (T. viridis) and Golden-headed Quetzal (Pharomachus auroceps)
We spotted Resplendent Quetzals(Pharomachus mocinno) at Finca Lerida and on the Sendero de los Quetzales in Panama – it is the National Bird of Guatemala and was treated as sacred by the Mayas and Aztecs. Our guide at Finca Lerida showed up a former nesting site for the Resplendent Quetzal at Finca Lerida in a hole built in a decaying stump-nests may be dug out of former woodpecker holes, out of termite nests or mounds or natural tree cavities. Members of the Trogon family lay their eggs (white to pale blue) in a cavity lined with straw, moss, down, feathers etc..
Most Promising Locations to See Trogons in Peru: Amazon River
We spotted Black-tailed Trogon (Trogon melanerus) along the Amazon River on a tour with Manu Expeditions.
Other Regions: Caribbean, Mexico, Africa, India, Philippines, Peru, Argentina and Uruguay
Although we have not seen Trogon’s in these regions, our bird books say the following species can be found in the following regions:
Mexico and Central America: Eared Quetzal (Euptilotus neoxonus), Slaty-tailed Trogon (Trogon m. massena), Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachus m. mocinno), Mountain Trogon (T. m. mexicanus), Collared Trogon (T. collaris puella), Citreline Trogon ( T. citreolus sumichrasti), Blackheaded Trogon (T. m. melanocephalus), Violaceous Trogon(T. violaceous braccatus)
Cuba, Isle of Pines, Hispaniola: Hispaniolan Trogon (Temnotrogon roseigaster), Cuban Trogan (Priotelus temnurus)
South America: Black-Throated Trogon (Trogon rufus), Surucua Trogon (Trogon surrucura), Blue Crowned Trogon (Trogon currucui)
Philippines: Philippine Trogon (Harpactes ardens)
Northeast Himalayans and Bhutan : Redheaded Trogon(Harpactes erythrocephalus), Ward’s Trogon (Harpactes Wardes)
Sri Lanka, W. Tamil Nadu, and Western Ghats: Malabar Trogon(Harpactes fasciatus fasciatus and Harpactes fasciatus Malabarus)
Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda: Narina Trogon (Apoloderma narina) also found along the coast of South Africa, Bar-tailed Trogon (Apoloderma vittatum)
I guess we’ll have to spend more time looking for Trogons.
See my blog Evolutionary Plume for more details about birds, birdwatching, wildlife and travel.
 Paul R. Ehrlich, David S. Dobkin, Darryl Wheye, “The Birder’s Handbook”, Fireside, 1988
 Richard Grimmett, Carol Inskipp, Tim Inskipp, “Pocket Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent”, A&C Black, 1999
 James Bond, “Birds of the West Indies”, Houghton Mifflin, 1985
 Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe, “Birds of East Africa”, Princeton Press, 2002
 John K. Terres, “The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds”, Alfred. A. Knopf, 1980
 Steve N. G. Howell and Sophie Webb, “A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Nothern Central America”, Oxford University Press, 1995
Robert S. Kennedy, Pedro C. Gonzales, Edward C. Dickinson, Hector C. Miranda, Timothy H. Fisher, “A Guide to the Birds of the Philippines”, Oxford University Press, 2000
 F. Gary Stiles and Alexander F. Skutch, “A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica”, Cornell University Press
 Thomas S. Schulenberg, Douglas F. Stotz, Daniel F. Lane, John P. O’Neill, Theodore A. Parker, “Birds of Peru”, Princeton, 2007
 George R. Angehr and Robert Dean, “The Birds of Panama”, Zona Tropical Cornell Press, 2010