Sunday, June 21, 2015

Bulletin 224 - Costa Rica #5 - Tanagers

It is always a delight in the tropics to see the brightly colored tanagers. The Thraupidae (tanager) family contains 370+ species, so there are many to see and photo. Also, they tend to be medium sized birds and are readily attracted to fruit feeders, usually bananas, so can be easily photographed.

The Palm Tanager (Thruapis palmarum) is a 6" grayish-olive bird with black wings. The sexes are similar. Its range is Guatemala to Southern Brazil.

Palm Tanager

His cousin the Blue-gray Tanager (Thraupis episcopus) is also 6". It has a pale blue head and body with darker blue wings and tail. The sexes are similar and it also has an extensive range from Mexico to Amazonia.

Blue-gray Tanager

The next 3 are all various combinations of red and black and all in the genus ramphocelus.
The Passerini's Tanager (Ramphocelus passerinii) is a 6" black tanager with a red lower back and rump. The female is gray and yellowish. It is a resident of the Caribbean slope and was along with the next bird formerly known as Scarlet-rumped Tanager.

Passerini's Tanager - male

Passerini's Tanager - female
The male Cherrie's Tanager (Ramphocelus costaricensis) is identical the the above bird. The female is different in that she is brighter and has an orange breast. It is resident on the Pacific slope.

Cherrie's Tanager - male

Cherrie's Tanager - female
The third of this genus is the Crimson-collared Tanager (Ramphocelus sanguinolentus). This 7" is black with a red hood and collar. I think this was the most stunning of the tanagers on the trip. The sexes are similar.

Crimson-collared Tanager
An unusual group of tanagers are called flowerpiercers. They have a hooked upper mandible that they use to tear a hole in the base of the flower to get the nectar. Thus they don't accumulate any pollen and don't help the flowers propagate. We watched some hummingbirds using these holes created to get the nectar, as well. The Slaty Flowerpiercer (Diglossa plumbea) is a 4" bird endemic to Costa Rica and Panama in the mountains above 4000'. The male is gray and the female is olive. Here is the male and the peculiar beak is seen well.

Slaty Flowerpiercer - male
The Red-legged Honeycreeper (Cyanerpes cyaneus) is a 4" nectar feeding bird. The breeding male is dark blue with a black face and wings and red legs. The female and non-breeding male are olive.

Red-legged Honeycreeper - breeding male
The Green Honeycreeper (Chlorophanes spiza) is 5". The male is blue-green with a black hood and yellow bill. The female is a bright green with yellow bill.

Green Honeycreeper - male

Green Honeycreeper - female
The genus tangara has many of the most brightly colored tanagers species. They are all smaller at 5" in length and the sexes are usually similar. The Bay-headed Tanager (Tangara gyrola) has a blue-green breast, yellow green back and rufous head. The female is duller.

Bay-headed Tanager
The Golden-hooded Tanager (Tangara larvata) is multi-colored blue, black and white and a gold hood.

Golden-hooded Tanager
The Spangle-cheeked Tanager (Tangara dowii) has a rusty belly, bluish back, green breast, black face and white feathers on cheeks.

Spangle-cheeked Tanager
Lastly is the Silver-throated Tanager (Tangara icterocephala) is overall yellow with a white throat and black streaks on the wings and back.

Silver-throated Tanager
Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2015 David McDonald

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