Living Bird Magazine
Elegant TrogonTrogon elegans
- ORDER: Trogoniformes
- FAMILY: Trogonidae
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.More ID Info
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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.
- Trogón Elegante (Spanish)
- Trogon élégant (French)
- Cool Facts
- Elegant Trogons are what’s called a “secondary cavity nester”—they put their nests in holes in trees, as woodpeckers do. But they don’t have the ability to make these holes themselves, so they are largely dependent on woodpeckers to excavate nest holes for them. Once the woodpecker has moved on, trogons (among many other secondary cavity nesting species) can move in. Elegant Trogons often use holes that were excavated by Northern Flickers or Acorn Woodpeckers.
- Trogon is a Greek word meaning "gnawer," which refers to its insectivore diet and hooked bill.
- Trogons tend to nest in riparian vegetation, sometimes close to human activity. Trogon nests are regularly found near service trails, campgrounds, and picnic grounds, so if you go camping in the mountains of Arizona you might find you have a trogon nesting in your campsite.
- Elegant Trogons were first found in the Huachuca Mountains of Arizona in 1885. Half a century later, in 1939, a nest was discovered in Madera Canyon of the Santa Rita Mountains, and they have since been found in the Atascosas and Chiricahuas Mountains. Although there seems to be suitable habitat in several other mountain ranges, it’s likely that this species has not yet had the chance to disperse there.