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Trogon melanocephalus (Black-Headed Trogon)

Trogon melanocephalus, commonly known as the black-headed trogon, is found in open lowland forests along the Pacific and Caribbean slopes of Mesoamerica (Skutch, 1948; Riehl, 2012). Two observably distinct populations exist across the species’ distribution range: T. m. melanocephalus is found along the eastern coast of Mexico and Central America from southern Veracruz through to Belize and northern Costa Rica while T. m. illaetabilis is found along the Pacific coast of Central America from El Salvador through western Nicaragua. Like other trogon species, the black-headed trogon has a stocky body and a short beak that curves slightly at its tip. The head and chest are dark black as referenced in the species’ nomenclature (“mela”- dark; “cephal”- head). Beneath the chest is a narrow band of white above bright yellow underparts. The wings are black aside from white edgings. The tail is long and rectangular with a banding pattern of alternating black and white feathers, giving it a “tiered” appearance. Males exhibit particularly glossy, iridescent coloring along the nape and back. Females are patterned in the same manner but feature more subdued coloring and lack the iridescent hind coloring of males.

            Black-headed trogons are socially monogamous as nesting pairs and travel in assemblages of 3-12 individuals that form throughout the breeding season (Riehl, 2008). Such groupings, dubbed “quasi-leks” (Brosset, 1983) and “lek-like” (Johnsgard, 2000), are characterized by male-skewed sex ratios and communal calling between individuals. It has been suggested that such a system plays a primary function in mate choice (Skutch, 1972). However, it has also been argued that the assemblies play little to no role in courtship (Riehl, 2008). The black-headed trogon’s diet is composed of fruit and insects. Insect consumption by the species is thought to coincide with seasonality and life stage such that the trogons typically consume a much larger proportion of insects as nestlings and during the wet season (Riehl and Adelson, 2008).


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