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October 24, 2021

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Return of Bird of the Week: Opal-crowned Tanager

The Opal-crowned Tanager is a canopy dweller, spending its life in the upper third of mature jungle canopy in the mountain lowlands of Ecuador and Peru. The only times WC has seen it has been in a canopy tower, or on a steep hillside where a road give you a view of the downslope treetops.

This view, poor as it is, is one of those hillside glimpses. The bird is unmistakeable, with that opal band around the crown of the head, dark blue-black back and electric blue body. Some ornithologists group this species with its cousin, Opal-rumped Tanager, in a separate genus, Tangarella. Others lump it with the other 49 members of Tangara, many of whom have already appeared in Bird of the Week.

Opal-crowned Tanager, Peru

Opal-crowned Tanager, Peru

The Opal-crowned Tanager, even for a Neotropical species, is poorly known. Living and nesting n the tree tops, a hundred feet or more above the forest floor, it’s understandable. So WC’s guide was flabbergasted to find an Opal-crowned Tanager nesting in a bromeliad alongside a bird-viewing platform built around a tree, 120 feet in the air.

Opal-crowned Tanager, Amazon Basin, Ecuador

Opal-crowned Tanager on a nest, Amazon Basin, Ecuador

The nest and eggs of the species are undescribed; you are looking at a pretty rare sight: an Opal-crowned Tanager on a nest. Of course, at the time the photo was taken, WC had no idea, and we didn’t want to disturb the nest. So it’s not a really good photo.

There is no data on the population of this species. Science doesn’t know if it is threatened or not. This species is described as “uncommon” and “patchily distributed” relative to other Neotropical birds with a center of abundance in the lower tropical zone.  But Opal-crowned tanagers are believed to be sensitive to human disturbance.

For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

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