A Maya legend narrates that Kukulkan –the creator of the universe– and Tepeu –god of the sky–, joined forces and created the world. Since the inception of life, with a breath of air toward the Guayacan Tree, a majestic and long feathered bird was born, known as Quetzal.
Kukulkan is the name the Mayas used to name Quetzalcoatl, which in náhuatl means “Feathered Snake”. The male of the quetzal specie has a tail, whose longest feather can measure up to 1.10 meters long; when flying it looks like the movement of a snake… This is actually why people presum that the feathered snake idea came from: the observation of this bird.
This small bird inhabits in the depths of the foggy forests of Mexico, Panama, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Guatemala. It was such a precious bird during pre-Hispanic times, that its feathers were reserved for the exclusive use of nobility and royalty.
It is worth mentioning that the famous plume of Moctezuma, the last Aztec emperor, is a headpiece made of quetzal feathers joined together with gold thread and decorated with precious stones. Nowadays one of these feathers is valuated in 3 thousand dollars.
The quetzal can hardly be seen in the wild, and there are only 20 specimens in captivity located in 3 different places: the Dallas Zoo in U.S.A., the Miguel Alvarez del Toro Zoo in Chiapas and the eco-park Xcaret in Quintana Roo.
A little over a month ago the Miguel Alvarez del Toro Zoo made an agreement with the eco-park Xcaret, by donating a couple of 2 year old quetzals, with the purpose of including this specie in the reproductive program for endangered species.
Upon the arrival of these new guests, the eco-park built an enormous aviary that holds up to 3 thousand specimen from 150 Mexican birds, including the parrot, the flamingo, the macaw and of course the quetzal. The construction of this new habitat took 10 years and a total budget of almost 3 million pesos; given the humidity and temperature conditions the area must have, to make the environment as similar as the one in Chiapas, to help the quetzals adapt easily.
Their caretakers stated the love is in the air, because they have observed the male’s wooing behavior toward the female. Now they are stable in their new habitat it is only a matter of time for the couple to fall in love and have many offspring, and hopefully in the future we can observe this specie in the wild once again.