Mexico Travel Guide
Quetzal El Triunfo

Meet the Divine Bird, The Quetzal in El Triunfo, Chiapas

Rutopía editorial team
Rutopía editorial team
- min read

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Hundreds of years have passed since you told me that I was more valuable than metal or precious stones. My colors “livery green and gold” I been decorated for kings. Dazzling is my colorful, royal bird feathers.
My name is Quetzal, linked to the feathered serpent; in my great cultures, it symbolizes the above and the below, the air and the earth, the sky and the underworld.
-Short fragment of the Poem Quetzal by Elizabeth Ríos de Pastrana Nicaragua.

The majestic Quetzal, that bird of resplendent plumage that since time immemorial has become the heart of pre-Hispanic cultures, is one of those endemic jewels of Central America that inhabits the mountainous areas of Oaxaca, Chiapas, and in countries such as Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and Guatemala, the latter becoming its national symbol and the name of its currency.

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When we talk about quetzals we must think of a unique animal. A bird that has never been easy to observe, among other things, because it flies through the fog of the cloud forests and it is very easy to hide in the mist despite its striking plumage.


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Quetzal, Sacred Bird of Mesoamerican Cultures

The word Quetzal comes from the Nahuatl word quetzalli which means “beautiful shining feather”. This toponym is associated with its iridescent plumage, such a rare color that, according to specialists, varies according to the light of the day and makes a visual contrast with the red of its belly and its immense tail, so large that it can reach up to 90 centimeters.

For the cultures of Central and Southern Mexico, the quetzal was a sacred animal. The Mayas associated it with Kukulkan and the Aztecs with Quetzalcoatl, they had such a great adoration for this creature that they used its figure in multiple cosmogonic representations; one of the clearest examples of this is in the famous feathered serpent in Chichen Itza.

On the other hand, the beauty of its plumage was a symbol of wealth for Mesoamerican cultures, so much so that priests and high-ranking rulers used its feathers to decorate their attire and great ornaments as we can see in the amazing plume of Moctezuma.

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The Quetzal in El Triunfo Chiapas

Despite its importance, today this species is in danger of extinction due to illegal trafficking to obtain their feathers or to sell them as pets. Although certainly their greatest threat is the reduction of their habitats, it is estimated that in recent years these birds have lost approximately 70% of their nesting sites.

Due to the risk they run, several reserves have been created, one of them, perhaps one of the most important, is the Biosphere Reserve El Triunfo Chiapas where visitors can see them from February to April since during those months they offer their courtship flights, which is one of the most extraordinary natural spectacles to appreciate.

Quetzal watching in El Triunfo Chiapas takes place in the Sierra Madre, in the cloud forest, one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in Mexico. For this experience Rutopía has planned some visits with different guides from the Tzeltal community that take travelers to meet this wonderful bird, in the course of which there is the possibility of knowing the nearby communities that are dedicated to the cultivation of organic coffee, one of the most valued in the world.

There is also the possibility of seeing the Quetzal at the Tziscao Ecotourism Center near the Montebello Lagoons, where there are also other species such as the Tucaneta, Achiote, White-tailed Deer and a diversity of orchids and bromeliads. On the other hand, for those who choose to do so, it is possible to hiking, landscape observation, trekking, boarding a log raft and visiting orchid islets and cenotes.



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Walk into the cloud forest and be amazed by the beauty of the Orchids and Bromeliads. 

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Definitely, the Quetzal is one of the most beautiful birds in America, and being able to observe them is a wonderful thing you have to do at least once in your life. So come, explore the reserves, and discover a new world among the forests.


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