Resplendant Quetzal bird, Guatemala, collected around 1923

Resplendant Quetzal bird, Guatemala, collected around 1923

Usage conditions apply
Communities in Mexico and Central America used quetzal (KET-sahl) tail feathers to pay taxes to Aztec rulers. The feathers were also made into headdresses and clothing for royalty and religious leaders. To get the feathers, people caught the quetzal and pulled out its tail feathers. But they let it fly away, and the quetzal’s tail feathers grew back. The longest tail feather of this male quetzal bird is 21 inches long.
The quetzal has been the name of Guatemala’s currency since 1925.
Object Name
Quetzal Bird
alternative currency
ca 1923
place collected
associated place
Physical Description
wood (perch material)
feathers, organic materials (overall material)
top of head to wooden base: 44 cm; 17 5/16 in
base: 16.5 cm; 6 1/2 in
top of head to bottom of tail feather: 70 cm; 27 9/16 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
The Honorable Charles E. Hughes
See more items in
Work and Industry: National Numismatic Collection
Really BIG Money
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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