Elegant Trogon

Trogon elegans
Range Map

The Elegant Trogon is a resident of the lower levels of semi-arid open woodlands and forests. Mostly a Mexican native, and resident throughout that country, some of these birds will migrate north into southern Arizona and New Mexico to breed. They have graced Texas with visits in recent years, and I met one (a female) briefly at Estero Llano State Park in January 2021.

Anisodactyly is the arrangement of toes most common in the bird world. Three toes point forward and the fourth points to the rear. Zygodactyly feet means two toes face forward (#2 & 3) and two point back (#1 & 4), as with most woodpeckers, parrots and cuckoos (e.g. roadrunners), but there is a similar arrangement, using a different combination of digits in a configuration that science calls Heterodactyly (#3 & 4 forward, #1 & 2 back). Trogons have feet that follow this Heterodactyly arrangement.

Birds in the Trogon clan, including quetzals, excavate nest cavities by biting off pieces of wood, rather than pecking like woodpeckers do. This practice has given them their scientific name trogon, which comes from the greek, meaning nibbler. There are 46 species in the family Trogonidae, divided into seven genera. We find them in tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Asia and the New World.

Modern taxonomists recognise five subspecies of Elegant Trogan:

  • T. e. canescens breeds in southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, and is resident in northwestern Mexico south to northern Sinaloa.
  • T. e. goldmani lives in Arizona, southwestern New Mexico and northwestern Mexico, including Sonora, Sinaloa and western Chihuahua. There is a resident population on the Tres Marías Islands off of western Mexico. The northern populations are migratory.
  • T. e. ambiguus lives in south Texas (rare) and resident in Mexico from Tamaulipas west to Nayarit and south to Oaxaca (Mexico).
  • T. e. elegans lives in Central America from Guatemala to El Salvador and Honduras.
  • T. e. lubricus lives in Central America from Honduras to Costa Rica.

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