Sunday, December 21, 2014

Blue-gray Tanager

Recently I discovered photographs of three South American tanagers in my digital files. This first is a Blue-gray Tanager, found in northern South America, north into Mexico. In July 1965, my father sent my brother and me to visit our recently widowed Argentine aunt. We had spent the previous year earning half the trip’s fare. I was 18, my brother 16—we’d both been birding perhaps three years. I took photos during the journey, but with only a 300 mm lens, few of the images are worth sharing. Time has also not been kind to the Kodachrome.

This Blue-gray tanager visited a papaya slice on our balcony in the city of Belem, Brazil. This bird was not a lifer—we boys had already listed it in Trinidad a few days earlier. Blue-gray Tanagers are often found in non-forested habitats, including city parks and gardens and, in fact, thrives in human-altered areas (Handbook of Birds—Alive!). They are known to nest in crevices in buildings.

This tanager’s diet includes fruits, nectar, and arthropods. They are often found in pairs, mixed-species flocks, and loosely associated groups of other Blue-gray Tanagers. This individual appears to be the nominate race, Thraupis episcopus episcopus, found in the Guianas and eastern Brazil, and first described by Linnaeus in 1766. The species is widespread and abundant across its range.

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