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May 11, 2021

Return of Bird of the Week: Swallow-tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed Kite, Ecuador

As promised, WC will take a break from Tanagers for a while, and spend some time with bigger birds instead. Specifically, with Accipitridae, the world-wide family of birds sometimes called raptors, and at least to start, with Kites. When WC was just getting started in birding, it was a shock to learn that “kite” isn’t a specific family of birds, or even a single genus. It’s a catch-all lay term for medium- to small-sized raptors with pointy wings. “Hawks” and “falcons” refer to specific related groups; “kites” are just hawks with a different name. We’ll start with the very handsome,…

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Return of Bird of the Week: Beryl-spangled Tanager

Beryl-spangled Tanager, Eastern Slope of Andes, Peru

If WC has counted correctly, we’ve featured 25 weeks of Tanagers. And while we’re a long ways from exhausting tanagers – we haven’t touched on Mountain Tanagers yet, or tanagers that aren’t called “tanagers” – WC will move to a different family of birds next week. But let’s close out tanagers with a spang(le), specifically with the spectacular Beryl-spangled Tanager. WC’s first sighting of the species was pretty unusual. We were walking along a grassy river corridor at about 2,000 meters on the east slope of the Andes in Ecuador, just below Guango Lodge. There was a commotion in a…

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Return of Bird of the Week: Vermilion Tanager

Not to be confused with the similarly colored but unrelated Vermilion Flycatcher, the Vermilion Tanager is a bird of the eastern slopes of the Andes. It’s another canopy species; this is another photo from a steep hillside, looking at downslope treetops. Yes, the shot was photobombed by a Golden-naped Tanager, but that’s a pretty good bird, so WC let it pass. The bird was pretty far away, the crop is pretty heavy and both photos demonstrate a hazard of birding in a cloud forest: clouds. Still, it doesn’t get much more red than that. Unusually for a tanager, this species…

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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…

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Return of Bird of the Week: Silver-beaked Tanager

Silver-beaked Tanager, Pantanal, Brazil

Yes, still with the tanagers. After all, there may be as many as 240 different species, although WC has so far photographed only a fraction of them.[^1] But staying with the silvery theme, meet the Silver-beaked Tanager. The bill is indeed bright silver, distinguishing the species from the Silver-backed Tanager and the Silver-throated Tanager. Maybe it’s a failure of naming imagination. It’s also one of the tougher birds to properly expose in a photograph. The silver, in anything but the lowest light, is almost mirror-like and if you drop the exposure enough to get any detail there, all detail in the black…

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Return of Bird of the Week: Silver-throated Tanager

Silver-throated Tanager, Ecuador

Not to be confused with the Silver-backedTanager or the Silver-beakedTanager, The Silver-throatedTanager is a bird of the highlands of Costa Rica and Panama and the cloud forests of the northern and central Andes in South America. The bird’s plumage is unusual beyond the silver throat. Not many Tangaraspecies – the largest genus of Tanagers – have striping or barring, let alone a black line around  that fancy silvery bib. In  the tropics, where the variety of bird species can be bewildering, this bird is unmistakeable. There’s nothing like it. There are three subspecies; these first two are probably icterocephala, the southernmost….

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Return of the Bird of the Week: Flame-colored Tanager

Male Flame-colored Tanager, Panama

Don’t confuse the Flame-coloredTanager with the Flame-crested Tanagerfeatured a couple of weeks ago. Yes, the names are confusingly similar, but the birds certainly are not. The male is to the left; the badly out-of-focus bird to the right is the female. This tanager is different from the last sixteen or so in a couple of ways. First, this is the first tanager that sometimes occurs in the United States. It’s rare, but it has been seen several times in southern Arizona and west Texas. The regular range is northern Mexico to western Panama. The second difference is that ornithologists are unsure…

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Return of Bird of the Week: Lemon-rumped Tanager

Not everyone agrees that the Lemon-rumped Tanager is a species. The International Ornithological Congress does; that’s the world bird list that WC follows. The folks over at Clements think it is a subspecies of the Flame-rumped Tanager. Not to be confused with the Flame-coloredTanager, a completely different species. There was a failure of imagination in the naming of some tanager species. But either way the Lemon-rumped Tanager is a handsome bird. Jet black, with a brilliant lemon yellow rump, it is unmistakeable when you see it. The species – subspecies, if you prefer – ranges from Central America to southern…

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Return of Bird of the Week: White-shouldered Tanager

White-shouldered Tanager Male, Panama

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

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Return of Bird of the Week: Flame-crested Tanager

Flame-crested Tanager, Amazon Basin, Ecuador

Back in early May, when the Bird of the Week shifted to Tanagers, WC warned that there were dozens of species. Here’s the fifteenth. This is a species WC has only seen one time; it’s a canopy dweller, spending most of its time in the upper canopy, a hundred feet or more over the heads of would-be birders. A birder can get around that problem by visiting a canopy tower, a platform that takes you up into the tops of the trees (after a hot, sweaty climb of hundreds of steps, of course). Sometimes, as here, there are as many…

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