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Elegant Trogon

Trogon elegans ORDER: TROGONIFORMES FAMILY: TROGONIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Many kinds of trogons live in tropical forests, but only one species regularly occurs in North America. Easily recognized by their metallic-green and rose-red colors, as well as their unusual stout-bodied, square-tailed profile, Elegant Trogons are a prized sighting for birders who visit southeastern Arizona. Early on spring mornings, their repetitive and resonating calls carry through the sycamore and oak forests that line canyon streams. Elegant Trogons are reliant upon woodpeckers to excavate holes in trees where they place their nests.

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Keys to identification Help

Flycatcherlike
Flycatcherlike
  • Size & Shape

    Elegant Trogons are medium-sized stocky, potbellied birds. They are larger than a robin, with a large, round head, a thick neck, large eyes, and a short, stout bill. Trogons perch upright with their long square-tipped tails pointing straight down.

  • Color Pattern

    Male Elegant Trogons are brilliant birds with coppery green upperparts and rose-red underparts. They have a white band across the breast and a black-and-white barred underside to the tail. The face and throat are black. Females and immatures are patterned similarly to males, but have grayish-brown upperparts with a white teardrop around the eye.

  • Behavior

    Elegant Trogons eat mostly insects. They catch them by watching, motionless, from a perch and then bursting into fluttering flight. They also eat figs and other fruits. Trogons sit very upright on perches, and they make a hoarse, repetitive croaking.

  • Habitat

    In Arizona, Elegant Trogons live mainly in riverside upland oak and sycamore canyons. Look for them also in pine-oak woodlands, edge vegetation, and juniper forests. They favor areas where Arizona Woodpecker, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, and Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher also occur.

Range Map Help

Elegant Trogon Range Map
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Similar Species

The Elegant Trogon is the only regularly occurring trogon in the United States. The much rarer Eared Quetzal has only been reported sporadically in southeast Arizona over the last half-century. Eared Quetzals have lots of white on the underside of the tail, and they don’t have the Elegant Trogon’s black and white barring on the tail. They also lack a white band separating the green breast from the red belly. Additionally, the Elegant Trogon is the only species in which the female has a white teardrop behind the eye. In Mexico, the Elegant Trogon resembles the Collared and Mountain Trogons, however, Collared Trogon lacks the white-tipped inner tail feathers and Mountain Trogon lacks the barring across the underside of the tail.

    Find This Bird

    Elegant Trogons are one of the most sought-after birds by bird watchers in the U.S., They breed regularly in only four mountain ranges in Arizona: the Atascosas, Chiricahuas, Huachucas, and Santa Ritas. They also are rarely reported in the southwestern mountains of New Mexico. Notwithstanding their restricted range, you should be able to find trogons if you look in the correct habitat (canyon forests of oak and sycamore) at the right time of year. Some trogons are present all year, but most arrive in April and depart in November. Listen for Elegant Trogons’ repetitive, resonant call notes to help narrow in on them. Males call most frequently in the early morning of April to May and again in late June to July. They are most easily seen when they erupt into flight after a prey item. At other times they tend to sit motionless, although typically in the upper understory or lower canopy, where they can still be fairly easy to spot if you look carefully.