Peg Abbott, an Arizona resident and birding guide, had the good fortune in 2020 of having two Eared Quetzal spend an extended period of time in the Chiricahua Mountains, with sightings from June 8-November 25, 2020. She logged close to 300 hours observing and photographing the two birds, a male and female, primarily in Cave Creek Canyon. Amid a global pandemic, she gained insight and inspiration from that experience and shares that in this talk which features a mix of scientific and personal observations. The Eared Quetzal is an occasional wanderer to Arizona and New Mexico. It is primarily a wary Mexican endemic of the Sierra Madres with a distribution from Sonora and Chihuahua south to Michoacan. It was first reported in the United States in 1977, when four birds, a possible family group, were discovered in Cave Creek Canyon. For the next dozen years, scattered sightings of single birds, mostly male, were noted, some seen on only one or 2 days, earning this species early the nickname of the Mystery Bird. Peg reviewed historic sightings for an article in the Arizona Field Ornitohologist’s journal, learning that that Eared Quetzals have been reported in 27 of the past 45 years with at least 66 documented occurrences in 6 Sky Island ranges north of Mexico (Chiricahua, Huachuca, Santa Rita, Sierra Ancha, and Superstition in Arizona and Animas in New Mexico) as well as several locations along Arizona’s Mogollon Rim and the adjacent highlands in New Mexico. Almost all were wary, but the male and female documented for this presentation were uncharacteristically tolerant of human activity, allowing extended observation on 104 of 134 days known to be present in the Chiricahuas (Peg’s backyard). Learn more about their diet and feeding behavior, vocalizations, and roosting habits.

Image by Frank Retes