Return of Bird of the Week: Blue-tailed Trogon


Blue-tailed Trogon, West Slope of the Andes, Ecuador

When WC took this photo back in 2009, this was a Chocò Trogon, or, less commonly, a White-eyed Trogon. Now it’s officially a Blue-tailed Trogon, another member of the Trogonidae. In 2009, WC’s camera was an Olympus E-3; it wasn’t very good was awful in low light conditions. And the understory of the cloud forest jungle favored by the Blue-tailed Trogon is all about low light. WC pushed his ISO to 800 – which generated all the noise you’ll see in these two photos – and still had to drop his shutter speed to 1/250th and an aperture of f5.7. The photo is still dark. Another notable limitation of the Olympus E-3: it struggled to get autofocus in low light. Typically, WC had to resort to manual focus, which was the case for these photos. Fortunately, Trogons are generally pretty “sticky,” as this bird was.1

Blue-tailed Trogon, West Slope of the Andes, Ecuador

There is almost no published work on this species. The literature is silent on breeding, diet and molts, among many other things. WC’s notes from this trip say that this bird was hawking bugs – flying from this perch to nab bugs in the air. It’s hard to imagine this bird being good flier with those stubby little wings, but it seemed to be.

This Trogon species is found from western Colombia south into northwestern Ecuador, a comparatively small range. Across that range, it is found in humid and wet forest and forest borders, favoring foothills and broken hilly terrain, from sea-level to about 6,000 feet. There are no known subspecies. The gaps in data for Blue-tailed Trogon include no information on total populations.

Despite the comparatively small range, unknown total population and strong suspicion that those populations are decreasing from known threats like habitat loss, the IUCN classifies this as a species of Least Concern. WC respectfully disagrees, and thinks this species is properly described as Near-Threatened.

For more bird photographs, please visit Frozen Feather Images.


1 One of the areas where improved performance of digital cameras over the last 12 years is most dramatic is how of the camera sensor does in low light conditions. WC’s Canon 1DX Mark III, his current camera, would have acquired focus immediately in these conditions, and at ISO2000 or so there would have been no discernible color noise.

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