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June 17, 2021

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Return of Bird of the Week: White-shouldered Tanager

The White-shouldered Tanager is a close cousin to the White-lined Tanager featured here two weeks ago.

White-shouldered Tanager, Darién, Panama

White-shouldered Tanager, Darién, Panama

It’s distinguished from its cousin by the much larger, white shoulder patches instead of the thin, sometimes invisible, white wing lines. The White-shouldered often shows a bit more purplish iridescence in its black than does the White-lined.

White-shouldered Tanager, Ecuador

White-shouldered Tanager, Ecuador

Like the White-lined, this species is strongly sexually dimorphic. Females are yellow with a gray face. Or so WC has been told; WC has never seen one.

White-shouldered Tanagers have a wide distribution, from Honduras in the north to central Brazil in the south and from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans. The species occurs at a wide range of altitudes, but is most common at lower elevations. As you’d expect with that wide a distribution, there are at least five subspecies. In an inverse of their White-lined cousins, they are insectivores that occasionally consume fruit.

Like Red-winged Blackbirds, White-shouldered Tanager males raise their white epaulets when confronting another male or otherwise defending their territory. They often forage in mixed flocks, and are readily attracted to fruit feeders, although they are drawn to the insects attracted to the fruit as much as the fruit itself.

Like many Neotropical bird species, this species is poorly studied. Their very wide range probably means they are not threatened, but no one knows the population or whether numbers or range are changing.

For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

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