Quetzal Fever

Search for the resplendent quetzal

People come from around the world to view the resplendent quetzal, and brightly-plumed bird that once sang backup for Cher on stage. Now it lives a secretive life, less than 1,000 live in the wild ranging from Mexico to Panama. A favourite location to see the bird is the Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica. We travelled from our home in Canada, in the depths of winter, to catch a sighting. Escaping cold temperatures had nothing to do with it – we felt it was our duty to pay our respects to this talented performer. (The call of the quetzal is deep, smooth, and one of the most melodius notes in the forest.)

Resplendant Quetzal

File photo from Wikimedia Commons: Resplendant Quetzal

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is difficult to reach; it’s a four-hour drive from Liberia, the last 90 minutes were driven along twisty gravel roads. On one side of the road: steep cliffs. On the other side: a 4,000 metre drop into the depths of the earth. I might be exaggerating.

Once we were safely settled into our hotel in Santa Elena, we connected with local guide who would take us to the reserve. Elberth Fuentes was keen on finding a Quetzal for us. He carried a large spotting scope, and the hopes of everyone in the group. He told us that the fabulous bird was in the area; it had been seen several times in the past week. Now it was our turn.

Elberth had an amazing talent for finding critters in the forest that we had no idea were there. He’d stop, set up his spotting scope, and shepherd us to view the sights. And, as a bonus, we could take pics through his scope on our smartphones. It was almost like we were talented wildlife photographers 😉

Hummingbird in nest, courtesy Elberth's scope

Hummingbird in nest, courtesy Elberth’s scope


Two toucanets, again courtesy Elberth's amazing scope

Two toucanets, again courtesy Elberth’s amazing scope

We hiked the reserve for three hours, but with no success. It turned out that the quetzal spent that day in his dressing room, calling out occasionally to taunt us. Elberth seemed more disappointed than the rest of us in the group. As one woman said: “It was great to be in a natural place, where you’re not sure you’re going to see one. We had an amazing time.”

But, if we had seen one, it might have looked something like this:

The elusive quetzal

The elusive quetzal, includes file photo from Wikimedia Commons

Apologies to the resplendent quetzal.

Helpful info

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve website

Our guide:

Elberth Fuentes

Three Brothers Tours website


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