Threatened quetzal bird population triples in Mexico

July 11th, 2011 - 11:40 am ICT by IANS  

Mexico City, July 11 (IANS/EFE) The quetzal, a bird in danger of extinction, has tripled its numbers in Mexico after 25 years of conservation efforts, the government said.

The quetzal is a medium-size bird feathered with lustrous green plumage on its back, chest, head and wings.

Males differ from females by having a red breast and two long feathers that cover the tail and grow to as much as a metre in length.

The birds feed chiefly on fruit and small creatures like lizards, crickets, mice and butterflies.

The Environment Secretariat said it is now possible “to see a greater number flying freely” in the El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve in the southeastern state of Chiapas.

The biosphere reserve currently has an estimated three birds for every 16 hectares, unlike 25 years ago when only one bird would be found on the same area of land.

The estimates were made using radio telemetry studies, which also provided information on the birds’ movements.

Environment Secretary Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada said quetzals were earlier only seen in the wild on the Sierra Madre mountains of Chiapas.

The quetzal once thrived from Chiriqui in Panama to the isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca at an altitude above 1,200 metres in humid cloud forests with more than 3,000 mm of rainfall every year.

But habitat destruction and hunting the bird for its plumes dwindled the quetzal’s distribution in Mexico.

The quetzal was a symbol of Mesoamerica, and was considered the representation of the gods Quetzalcoatl and Kukulkan, the “plumed serpent” since in flight the bird’s tail feathers resemble the movements of a snake.

–IANS/EFE
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