Friday, December 26, 2014

Swallow Tanager

The third in my tanager series of photographs from my youth is this Swallow Tanager from Limoncocha, Ecuador, taken on 28 June 1976. Regular readers of my blog may correctly guess that this photo is one of a series taken of captive birds in a holding box.

This tanager is so strange that, until recently, it was considered to be in a family of its own, the Tersinidae. Unlike tanagers, this species has a broad, swallow-like bill, long wings, and it nests in holes rather than making uncovered nests. Molecular studies, however, place Swallow Tanagers firmly within the tanagers in the family Thraupidae.

Although the birds are usually at least seasonally common, Ornithologists do not know much about the distribution of Swallow Tanagers across the Amazon Basin and northern South America. Scientists are not clear as to the degree of migration, if any at all, exhibited by this bird.  Some populations may be residents, others short-distance migrants, while still others may be nomadic. Erika and I have records of Swallow Tanagers from eastern Peru in the Andean foothills (Tingo Maria) on 19 June 1972, 14 October 1972, and 1, 2 and 7 December 1972. SwallowTanagers are found forest clearings, coffee plantations, and in canopy tree tops. They consume fruits and arthropods (Handbook of Birds—Alive!).

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