You Share the Planet With #2: Glistening-green Tanager

It’s taken me one year for the 2nd installment of this series on species of birds new to me, and perhaps to you too. I want to resist the temptation to only present the most colorful species when I do this, but as I perused about 400 species of tanagers today, I found that I could not resist this one. I am as much enamored with its name as I am its unwordly countenance. I present to you, the Glistening-green Tanager (Chlorochrysa phoenicotis, a.k.a., the green and golden bird with the ear of flame).

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Francesco Veronesi photo, 30 August 2013, Colombia

What a beauty! Bright green is actually a rare color among birds that aren’t parrots, and only turacos are pigmentedly green. In the case of this tanager, that’s yellow-pigmented feathers (from carotenoids sequestered from food) combined with structural reflectance of melanosomes that would otherwise render this bird brilliant blue to our eyes. Pigmented yellow + structural blue = glistening-green.

These birds offer a window into the extraordinary adaptive radiation of the family of birds we call tanagers. Exclusively Western Hemisphere and primarily Neotropical, hundreds of species comprise this group that includes insectivores, canopy frugivores, aerial salliers, nuthatch-like probers, nectar-feeders, etc. Evolutionary plasticity being what it is, the boundaries of what makes a tanager or a warbler or a sparrow are shifting all the time. Darwin’s “finches”, seedeaters, and flowerpiercers are currently considered to be tanagers; oddly the North American breeding species (Scarlet, Hepatic, Summer, and Western) aren’t tanagers at all – they are Cardinals!

The Glistening-green Tanager is suitably bright and tropical-looking as befits the wet, mossy forests it calls home. It occupies a narrow band of cloud forest, roughly 1000–2000m on the Pacific slopes of the Andes in Colombia and Ecuador, where it is apparently resident. Arthropods make up the bulk of the diet, though fruits are taken as well. The nest is evidently a small cup of moss.

These birds are not listed as a conservation priority according to the International Union on the Conservation of Nature. Given the limited distribution, however, that rosy outlook could change fairly quickly.

So there you have it: a brilliant little bird I learned about today, and would love to visit at home in the clouds someday.

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Year-round distribution of Glistening-green Tanager


This entry was posted in animal behavior, bird evolution, birding, birds/nature, environment, evolution, HBW Alive, IUCN, wildlife, You Share The Planet With and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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