What’s with Boquete and its Quetzals? When and Where to Spot a Quetzal…

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"What’s with Boquete and its Quetzals? When and Where to Spot a Quetzal…".

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What’s with Boquete and its Quetzals? When and Where to Spot a Quetzal…

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When you get to Boquete Panama, you'll hear a lot of talk about the Resplendent Quetzal, a stunning blue-green-red trogon. Yes: a bird. People here tend to go a little Quetzal mad. They'll insist you see one.

At the onset of mating season (February to May in Panama), lady Quetzals bat their eyelashes, boy Quetzals prance and preen and weird humans start hanging out at what amounts to a bird nightclub, hoping for an ornithological orgy. You'll find Quetzals on posters. Logos. Brochures. Molas. Even menus. A Boquete restaurant features a things to do section in its menu. It used to include a photo of a Quetzal. When my friend pointed to the photo and asked (joking of course) for "Quetzal entero frito" (a whole fried Quetzal), we were almost thrown out. A local guide even named his son Quetzal.

The Resplendent Quetzal tops many bird watcher lists as a must see...
The Resplendent Quetzal tops many bird watcher lists as a must see...

So why is everybody in Boquete Panama so desperate for you to see Guatemala's national bird? In short: The Quetzal has majestic plumage, startling colours and regal comportment – with the face of a fuzzy stuffed animal. It's arguably the most stunning bird on Earth. (The national bird of Panama? The fierce, ferocious, permanently outraged Harpy Eagle. For those who aren't faint of heart, please Google: Sloth Harpy Eagle. Oh, yes.)

The best time of year to see a Quetzal in Boquete is between February and May. But my friends (and former Habla Ya students!) Lynne and Bill Fox hike The Waterfall Trail (or, White Rock) twice a week and have spotted at least one Quetzal in each month. (Bill is also the photographer featured in this post).

Quetzals tend to choose rotting trees for their nests (which allows them to open a hole in them) and this is why a good guide is always on the lookout for these types of trees. Photo of a baby Quetzal in its nest.
Quetzals tend to choose rotting trees for their nests (which allows them to open a hole in them) and this is why a good guide is always on the lookout for these types of trees. Photo of a baby Quetzal in its nest.

And I poke fun, but I'm out on trails as often as possible too, trying to spot these guys. (As brightly coloured as they are, they can be hard to see.) The males are stunning. It is a sweet, fleeting honour to see them streak across your field of vision. Legends abound about the Quetzal and they were considered divine: god of the air, snake god, symbol of goodness and light, and even spirit guide to a Quiché Maya prince. There is truly something magical about them.

Boquete Quetzals in Brief:


TIP - Birding like a boss: Learn the call of the Quetzal. It's easy. It's fun. People will think you know what you're doing and follow you around. If you get good, not only will you attract Quetzals, you can fool people into thinking they've found one.

LEARN MORE ABOUT HIKING TRAILS IN BOQUETE PANAMA... »

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Search our blog if you're visiting Panama! From must do's, where to party or eat, to which beaches and hiking trails you shouldn't miss, you'll find great insider info about Bocas del Toro, Panama City and Boquete, as well as Panamanian culture, customs and traditions, and certainly tips and advice for learning Spanish while in our country! We've been writing about all things Panama for over 10 years and nothing beats local knowledge from the locals themselves.


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