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BirdNote®: Trogons Nest with Wasps

Air Date: Week of

Move in day! A Violaceous Trogon checks out a possible nest site, in a huge wasp’s nest. (Photo: © Greg Basco)

Have you ever liked a restaurant so much you thought you might want to move in? That’s what the Violaceous Trogon does. This striking iridescent green and yellow Central American bird will excavate a cavity for its nest in the midst of a huge wasp nest, snacking all the while. The wasps provide a tasty bit of protein, and a natural defense against the Trogon’s predators.  BirdNote®’s Mary McCann has the story.


CURWOOD: Well, they say home is where the heart is and to be safe at home Trogons take that need to an extreme. Here’s Bird Note’s Mary McCann.

Trogons Nest with Wasps

The striking iridescence of the trogon’s blue feathers is the result of back pigments arranged in a structure that reflects light in a very particular way. (Photo: Doug Greenburg, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

[Call of the Violaceous Trogon]

When it comes time to nest, birds require a site that protects them, both from weather and from predators. Nests are perched high in trees, secreted deep in dense branches, or concealed in cavities. Some birds take a further step — nesting where they are defended by stinging insects.

The Violaceous Trogon (pronounced TRO-gahn) of the New World tropics often excavates its dwelling within a large, active wasps’ nest. [Violaceous Trogon call]

The Violaceous Trogon is a striking bird, ten inches tall with a deep blue head and breast and bright yellow belly. It’s adept at catching insects, and it begins its work at the wasps’ nest by eating some of the wasps. A pair of trogons then digs a cavity within the massive nest, large enough to accommodate themselves and their eggs. [Violaceous Trogon call]

Trogon’s and their close relatives Quetzals are known for extravagantly colorful tail coverlets, the ordinarily small feathers which cover and protect the base of the tail. (Photo: Doug Greenburg, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

While they may continue to snack on resident wasps throughout nesting, the trogons never eliminate all the wasps. And they create a nest that few predators would dare disturb.

Some birds nest in large ant or termite colonies, too. Safety is where you find it.
Written by Bob Sundstrom
Call of the Violaceous Trogon provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by C.A. Marantz.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2016 Tune In to Nature.org     January 2013/2018/2020     Narrator: Mary McCann
ID# 011507VITRKPLU          VITR-01b

CURWOOD: For pictures buzz on over to the Living on Earth website, loe.org



Read more on the BirdNote website

Click here to watch a video of the Violaceous Trogon in action


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