The Elegant Trogan
Back in 1988, we went on our first hunt for the Elegant Trogon. With Brent in a backpack on my back, in the cool of the morning, we hiked up that canyon. Far off in the distance, we could hear its call ever so faintly. Up we went along the trail but it eluded us that week, never ever getting a glance of it. It would be another thirteen years before I would get glass on one with only one click being somewhat decent. And so it would be until last month.
The Elegant Trogon is a rare bird in North America where its northern range stops at Madera Canyon, SW Arizona. Over a foot long with a 16″ wingspan (big bird), its colors and rarity are what drives birders nuts trying to catch a glimpse of this gorgeous bird. Your best bet of finding them is in spring when the male’s loud call rings through the forest giving away its location. You would think a bird this big, this colorful would be easy to find in a forest. You’d be mistaken.
Then we have this male who was disparately wanting to fall in love. It was late July and he was still seeking a mate, pathetically calling in the canyon nearly all day long. The call is a loose term as his call sounds like a dog bark more than any birdsong. It echoes through the canyon and when calling in your direction, you have no problem locating its source. This massive bird nests in abandoned woodpecker nests and when the female is within a short distance, he sticks first his head into the cavity and calls, then he gets in the cavity out of site and calls more. This male had two nesting sites to offer his potential mate. One in a telephone pole and the other in a more typical Sycamore tree.
By the end of the week, our male (I say that cause we were pulling for him to find love) finally seemed to have attracted a female to the area. She was calling back to him and on two occasions, we saw her come close to the proposed nest cavity. The male would fly up and down the canyon calling and the female would be a distance behind him. This elusive bird afforded us on two occasions opportunities to captured some clean shots but otherwise, it was just a dash of red and green as it flew through the canopy. I can say that at least after thirty years, I finally got glass (D5 / 800mm) on the Elegant Trogon!