Birds in Mexico, Central and South America

Great Tinamou

The Great Tinamou or Mountain Hen, which is like a small turkey, lives on the rainforest floor from Mexico through Costa Rica, Colombia, the Brazilian Amazon and eastern Peru.  Tinamous are the closest living relative to prehistoric flying birds. The male has sole charge of incubating clutches of about 4 eggs, laid at the base of trees, and looking after the chicks for their first few weeks. The female may leave clutches of eggs with 5 or 6 different males each breeding season. At other times Great Tinamous are solitary. They are not an endangered species.  

 

King Vulture 

The King Vulture is a large scavenging bird, living in tropical lowland forests from southern Mexico to northern Argentina. It is an expert glider, able to soar for hours without flapping its wings, its wingspan of only exceeded by the condor’s.  The Mayan codices show King Vultures, characterised by the knob on the beak and concentric circles for eyes.  In Mayan legends, the King Vulture served as a messenger between humans and the gods. 

 

Quetzal 

In the humid Cloud Forests of Central America and the Andes live various kinds of quetzal. The name comes from the Nahuatl (Aztec) language and means ‘large, brilliant tail feathers’. The Resplendent Quetzal has iridescent green feathers on its back, a bright red breast, long tail feathers and a fringed appearance to its body. The male has a helmet-like crest.  The name quetzal derives from Quetzalcoatl (feathered or plumed serpent), the name of a Mesoamerican deity. The Aztecs and Mayans saw the quetzal as the god of the air, its green feathers a symbol of plant growth. Very important people wore quetzal plumes in their headdresses. As no one was allowed to kill a quetzal, the birds were caught, their tail feathers plucked, and then they were released.

 

Golden-headed Quetzal