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Elegant Trogon Life History


ForestsIn Arizona, Elegant Trogons are mostly found in forested mountain canyons, particularly among sycamores, pines, and oaks. They can also be found in juniper habitats and where cottonwood-oak, Douglas-fir, and mesquite cover is limited. Throughout its range, the Elegant Trogon lives in the widest variety of habitats of any trogon, ranging from sea level to about 6,200 feet in Guatemala. Trogons are found in four mountain ranges in Arizona, the Atascosas, the Santa Ritas, the Huachuchas, and the Chiricahuas. Within those mountains, trogons select canyons with sycamore trees in the riparian area, and pines and oaks in the watersheds. Nests of trogons are mainly found in sycamores, but can also occur in oaks.Back to top


OmnivoreElegant Trogons are omnivorous, eating mainly insects and fruit. They eat a wide variety of insects, in particular grasshoppers and caterpillars, particularly in the breeding season. Other foods include cherries, grapes, figs, chokecherry, and buckthorn. Compared to the diet of birds that frequent the upper canopy, the Elegant Trogon's diet contains a large proportion of animal matter. Trogons, especially males, forage in oak trees and fruit-bearing plants as well as dead or dying trees. Both parents deliver insects such as grasshoppers, caterpillars, butterflies, leafhoppers, dragonflies, bees, and wasps to their young. Back to top


Nest Placement

TreeElegant Trogons nest along streams in holes in either live or dead trees. They can’t excavate these cavities themselves, so they depend on holes that woodpeckers (often Northern Flickers or Acorn Woodpeckers) have made. Some nests are reused from year to year. Large sycamores can be used in consecutive years and generally more than one-fourth of nests are reused at some point.

Nest Description

The nests contain very little material, and eggs simply lie on the floor of the cavity.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:2-4 eggs
Egg Length:1.1-1.2 in (2.7-3.1 cm)
Egg Width:0.9-1.2 in (2.2-3.1 cm)
Incubation Period:17-21 days
Nestling Period:34-40 days
Egg Description:Faint bluish white to dull white.
Condition at Hatching:Naked, pink, and with their eyes closed.
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FlycatchingElegant Trogons forage in the lower forest canopy (around 25 feet off the ground), where they sit motionless and scan neighboring branches, leaves, and trunks with almost imperceptible movements of their heads. When they spot something on a limb or in the air, they burst into flight to catch it by surprise. Males and females call to each other during foraging, courtship, incubation, and also while feeding nestlings. When advertising, males call loudly from a chosen perch, normally near the nest cavity. A displaying male approaches a female and begins flicking his tail and puffing out his crimson chest feathers. He follows the female from perch to perch while giving a low call. Males engage in threat displays where they puff out their breast and snap their bills, often during fights with other males. Little is known about the trogon mating system. They are monogamous and pairs stay together for at least a month after their young fledge. Female trogons must defend offspring from species such as Cooper's Hawks, Mexican Jays, and Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers. Trogon tend to live in areas that are also inhabited by Arizona Woodpecker, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, and Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher. Back to top


Restricted Range

There is little information on Elegant Trogon population trends. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 200,000 and rates the species a 14 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Elegant Trogon is on the Yellow Watch List for species with restricted ranges. It is probable that Elegant Trogons will always be rare in southeastern Arizona. Trogons are more likely to be affected by the destruction of riparian vegetation in the Southwest, which could reduce suitable nesting locations. A related issue is the drawdown of water tables in the region, which could harm the sycamore trees and riparian forests that trogons depend on.

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Kunzmann, M. R., L. S. Hall and R. Roy Johnson. (1998). Elegant Trogon (Trogon elegans), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Partners in Flight. (2020). Avian Conservation Assessment Database, version 2020.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

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