Elegant Trogons are the only trogons that occur regularly in North America.
They are one of the most prized finds for bird watchers in the U.S.
Elegant Trogons are medium-sized stocky, potbellied birds. They have a large, round head, a thick neck, large eyes, and a short, stout bill. They perch upright with their long square-tipped tails pointing straight down. Male Elegant Trogons are brilliant birds with coppery green upperparts and rose-red underparts. They have a white band across the breast and a black-and-white barred underside to the tail. The face and throat are black. Females and immatures are patterned similarly to males, but have grayish-brown upperparts with a white teardrop around the eye. Elegant Trogons are larger and thicker-bodied than American Robin and about the size of a Belted Kingfisher, with a much longer tail. Adults weigh 2.1-2.8 ounces (60-78.6 grams).
Elegant Trogons occur from southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico to Central America. They are mostly residents but in the northmost part of their range, they are migrants. In the U.S, Elegant Trogons are mostly found in forested mountain canyons. Throughout its range, the Elegant Trogon lives in the widest variety of habitats of any trogon, ranging from sea level to about 6,200 feet in Guatemala. Trogons are found in four mountain ranges in Arizona, the Atascosas, the Santa Ritas, the Huachuchas, and the Chiricahuas. Within those mountains, trogons select canyons with sycamore trees in the riparian area, and pines and oaks in the watersheds. Nests of trogons are mainly found in sycamores.
Elegant Trogons are omnivorous, eating mainly insects and fruit. They eat a wide variety of insects particularly in the breeding season. Compared to the diet of birds that frequent the upper canopy, the Elegant Trogon's diet contains a large proportion of animal matter. Trogons, especially males, forage in oak trees and fruit-bearing plants as well as dead or dying trees. Both parents deliver insects to their young.
Elegant Trogons nest along streams in holes in either live or dead trees. They can’t excavate these cavities themselves, so they depend on holes that woodpeckers have made. Some nests are reused from year to year. Large sycamores can be used in consecutive years and generally more than one-fourth of nests are reused at some point. The nests contain very little material, and eggs simply lie on the floor of the cavity.
Elegant Trogons have 2-4 faint bluish white to dull white eggs in each clutch. The eggs are 1.1-1.2 inches (2.7-3.1 centimeters) in length and 0.9-1.2 inches (2.2-3.1 centimeters) in width. Incubation period is 17-21 days and nesting period is 34-40 days. At hatching, the chicks are naked, pink, and their eyes are closed.
Elegant Trogons forage in the lower forest canopy (around 25 feet off the ground), where they sit motionless and scan neighboring branches, leaves, and trunks with almost imperceptible movements of their heads. When they spot something on a limb or in the air, they burst into flight to catch it by surprise.
Males and females call to each other during foraging, courtship, incubation, and also while feeding nestlings. When advertising, males call loudly from a chosen perch, normally near the nest cavity. A displaying male approaches a female and begins flicking his tail and puffing out his crimson chest feathers. He follows the female from perch to perch while giving a low call.
Males engage in threat displays where they puff out their breast and snap their bills, often during fights with other males.
Little is known about the trogon mating system. They are monogamous and pairs stay together for at least a month after their young fledge. Female trogons must defend offspring from other species.
The Elegant Trogon's song is a hoarse series of downslurred notes sometimes increasing in loudness. The notes are repeated 5–10 times with a pause before the next set. The song rate of males is generally much greater than females. The calls are generally a long drawn out note or a short series of quick harsh notes.
There is little information on Elegant Trogon population trends. They are more likely to be affected by the destruction of riparian vegetation in the Southwest, which could reduce suitable nesting locations.
- Trogon is a Greek word meaning "gnawer," which refers to its insectivore diet and hooked bill.
- Trogons tend to nest in riparian vegetation, sometimes close to human activity.
- Elegant Trogons were first found in the Huachuca Mountains of Arizona in 1885.
- Although there seems to be suitable habitat in several other mountain ranges, it’s likely that this species has not yet had the chance to disperse there.
- Elegant Trogons are also called Trogón Elegante (in Spanish) and Trogon élégant (in French).