What makes the elegant trogon elegant? Makes us
flock to the canyon lands of southeastern Arizona
during nesting season for a glimpse of it perched,
disinterested, on the branch of an oak or sycamore?
Deep brown eyes circled by a thin line of tangerine
on a downy black mask. A squat lemon yellow bill.
Crown, throat, and back an iridescent peacock green
and blue. Then, the purest white of its narrow collar,
the shock of that brilliant scarlet from breast to belly.
But that is not all. The shoulders of its folded wings
are soft gray on charcoal flight feathers edged white.
Its long straight tail flares at the end, a dappled light
gray with white tip from the front, coppery emerald
tipped indigo from the back. It is slightly larger than
the common robin, but more stout. All told, it weighs
a mere 68 grams; about two light bulbs, or one-fifth
the weight of the human heart. It is no doubt a most
striking bird. You could search all day, be heartened
to catch a glimpse, and still not see that what makes
the elegant trogon elegant is not the elegant trogon.

The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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