The trogons and quetzals are birds in the order Trogoniformes which contains only one family, the Trogonidae. The family contains 39 species in eight genera. The fossil record of the trogons dates back 49 million years to the mid-Eocene. They might constitute a member of the basal radiation of the order Coraciiformes. The word "trogon" is Greek for "nibbling" and refers to the fact that these birds gnaw holes in trees to make their nests.
Trogons are residents of tropical forests worldwide, with the greatest diversity in the Neotropics. The genus Apaloderma contains the three African species, Harpactes and Apalharpactes are Asian, and the remaining four genera are found in Central and South America.
They feed on insects and fruit, and their broad bills and weak legs reflect their diet and arboreal habits. Although their flight is fast, they are reluctant to fly any distance. Trogons are generally not migratory, although some species undertake partial local movements.
Trogons have soft, often colourful, feathers with distinctive male and female plumage. They are the only type of animal with a heterodactyl toe arrangement.
The trogons are insectivorous, usually hunting from a perch. They nest in holes dug into trees or termite nests, laying 2-4 white or pastel-coloured eggs.
Evolution and taxonomy
The position of the trogons within the class Aves has been a long-standing mystery. A variety of relations have been suggested, including the parrots, cuckoos, toucans, jacamars and puffbirds, rollers, owls and nightjars. More recent morphological evidence has suggested a relationship with the Coraciiformes. The unique arrangement of the toes on the foot (see morphology and flight) has led many to consider the trogons to have no close relatives, and to place them in their own order, possibly with the similarly atypical mousebirds as their closest relatives.
Full article ▸