Our Beautiful World

Tanagers, Thraupidae

A Grass-green Tanager (Chlorornis riefferii) photographed in northwest Ecuador. 3/10/2007
Photo: Michael Woodruff

The tanagers comprise the bird family Thraupidae, in the order Passeriformes. Tanagers are restricted to the New World and mainly to the
tropics. About 60% of tanagers live in South America, and 30% of these species live in the Andes. Most species are endemic to a relatively
small area.

There were traditionally about 240 species of tanagers, but the taxonomic treatment of this family's members is currently in a state of flux.
As more of these birds are studied using modern molecular techniques it is expected that some genera may be relocated elsewhere.
Already species in the genera Euphonia and Chlorophonia, which were once considered part of the tanager family, are now treated as
membersof Fringillidae, in their own subfamily, Euphoniinae. Likewise the genera Piranga (which includes the Scarlet Tanager,
Summer Tanager, and Western Tanager), Chlorothraupis, and Habia appear to be members of the Cardinal family, and have been
reassigned to that family by the AOU.

Tanagers are small to medium-sized birds. The shortest-bodied species, the White-eared Conebill, is 9 cm long and weighs 7 grams,
barely smaller than the Short-billed Honeycreeper. The longest, the Magpie Tanager is 28 cm and weighs 76 grams . The heaviest is the
White-capped Tanager which weighs 114 grams and measures about 24 cm. Both sexes are usually the same size and weight.
Tanagers are often brightly colored, but some species are black and white. Birds in their first year are often duller or a different color
altogether. Males are typically more brightly coloured than females. They have short, rounded wings. The shape of the bill seems to be
linked to the species' foraging habits.

Most tanagers live in pairs or in small groups of 3-5 individuals. These groups may consist simply of parents and their offspring. Birds may
also be seen in single species or mixed flocks. Many tanagers are thought to have dull songs, though some are elaborate.

Tanagers are omnivorous, and their diet varies from genus to genus. They have been seen eating fruits, seeds, nectar, flower parts and insects.
Many pick insects off branches. Other species look for insects on the underside of leaves. Yet others wait on branches until they see a flying
insect and catch it in the air. Many of these particular species inhabit the same areas, but these specializations alleviate competition.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thraupidae

Group 1
Mainly dull-coloured forms

Slaty Finch, Haplospiza rustica

a) Conebill and flowerpiercer group (10 genera)
(Also contains Haplospiza, Catamenia, Acanthidops, Diglossa, Diglossopis, Phrygilus
and Sicalis traditionally in the Emberizidae) This group despite having a rather varied bill morphology shows
marked plumage similarities. Most are largely grey, blue, or black, and numerous have rufous on the underparts:

Genus Conirostrum – typical conebills (10 species)
Genus Oreomanes – Giant Conebill
Genus Xenodacnis – Tit-like Dacnis
Genus Catamenia (3 species)
Genus Diglossa – typical flowerpiercers (14 species)
Genus Diglossopis – blue flowerpiercers (4 species)
Genus Haplospiza (2 species). Paraphyletic with 2 species of sierra-            finch Phrygilus[6]
Genus Acanthidops – Peg-billed Finch
Genus Phrygilus - sierra-finches (11 species)
Genus Sicalis – yellow-finches (12 species). Paraphyletic with Phrygilus

Male Variable Seedeater,
Sporophila corvina

b) True seedeaters. (4 genera)
Traditionally placed in Emberizidae. These genera share a particular foot-scute pattern which suggests
that they may form a monophyletic group:
Genus Sporophila – typical seedeaters (some 55 species)
Genus Oryzoborus (6 species)
Genus Dolospingus – White-naped Seedeater
Genus Charitospiza – Coal-crested Finch

c) "Yellow-rumped" clade (3 genera)
Genus Heterospingus (2 species)
Genus Chrysothlypis (2 species)
Genus Hemithraupis (3 species)

Brazilian Tanager, Ramphocelus bresilius

d) "Crested" clade (8 genera)
(Also contains Coryphospingus & Volatinia traditionally placed in the Emberizidae):
Genus Ramphocelus – silver-billed tanagers (9 species)
Brazilian Tanager, Ramphocelus bresilius
Genus Lanio – shrike-tanagers (4 species)
Genus Eucometis – Gray-headed Tanager
Genus Tachyphonus (8 species)
Genus Trichothraupis – Black-goggled Tanager
Genus Stephanophorus – Diademed Tanager
Genus Coryphospingus (2 species)
Genus Volatinia – Blue-black Grassquit

e) "Blue Finch" clade. (2 genera)
Relationships within Thraupidae uncertain but may be related to "Poospiza" clade (next)
Genus Porphyrospiza - Blue Finch
Genus? Phrygilus alaudinus- Band-tailed Sierra-finch

Orange-headed Tanager,
Thlypopsis sordida
Photo: Dario Sanches

f) The "Poospiza" clade (8 genera)
a diverse but close-knit group containing both warbler and finch-like forms:
Genus Poospiza – Warbling-finches (15 species)
Genus Compsospiza - Mountain-finches (2 species)
Genus Cnemoscopus – Gray-hooded Bush Tanager
Genus Hemispingus – hemispinguses (12 species)
Genus Thlypopsis (6 species)
Genus Pyrrhocoma – Chestnut-headed Tanager
Genus Cypsnagra – White-rumped Tanager
Genus Nephelornis – Pardusco

g) Grass & Pampa-finches. (2 genera)
Relationships within Thraupidae uncertain but together form a well-supported clade:
Genus Emberizoides (3 species)
Genus Embernagra (2 species)

h) A miscellaneous and likely polyphyletic group of unplaced "tanager-finches" (11 genera)
(which may or may not include the species called Tanager-finch) whose members when studied will no doubt
be relocated to other clades:
Genus Melanodera (2 species)
Genus Rowettia – Gough Island Finch
Genus Nesospiza (2 species)
Genus Gubernatrix – Yellow Cardinal
Genus Idiopsar – Short-tailed Finch
Genus Piezorhina – Cinereous Finch
Genus Xenospingus – Slender-billed Finch
Genus Incaspiza – inca-finches (5 species)
Genus Coryphaspiza – Black-masked Finch
Genus Rhodospingus – Crimson-breasted Finch
Genus Donacospiza – Long-tailed Reed-finch (may be related to Poospiza

i) Basal forms in group 1 (3 genera)
Genus Conothraupis (2 species)
Genus Orchesticus – Brown Tanager
Genus Creurgops (2 species)

Group 2
"Typical" colourful Tanagers

Green-headed Tanager, Tangara seledon
Photo: Lars Falkdalen Lindahl

a) Tropical canopy tanagers (2 genera)
Genus Thraupis - T. abbas & episcopus at least
Genus Tangara (about 50 species)

b) The "Tholospiza"
(12 genera)
Darwin's finches, grassquits, atypical honeycreepers and some seedeaters.
The finch-like forms in this clade were formerly classified in the Emberizidae
Genus Coereba – Bananaquit. Formerly placed in own family Coerebidae
Genus Geospiza – ground finches (6 species)
Genus Camarhynchus – tree finches (5 species)
Genus Platyspiza - Vegetarian Finch
Genus Certhidea – Warbler Finch
Genus Pinaroloxias – Cocos Island Finch
Genus Melopyrrha – Cuban Bullfinch
Genus Coereba – Bananaquit. Formerly placed in own family Coerebidae
Genus Tiaris – grassquits (5 species) - polyphyletic
Genus Loxipasser – Yellow-shouldered Grassquit
Genus Euneornis – Orangequit
Genus Melanospiza – St. Lucia Black Finch
Genus Loxigilla – Antillean bullfinches (3 species) - polyphyletic

c) Mountain tanagers
(9 genera)
Genus Cyanicterus – Blue-backed Tanager
Genus Bangsia – (5 species)
Genus Buthraupis – (4 species)
Genus Chlorornis – Grass-green Tanager
Genus Wetmorethraupis – Orange-throated Tanager
Genus Anisognathus – (5 species)
Genus Dubusia – Buff-breasted Mountain-tanager
Genus Delothraupis – Chestnut-bellied Mountain-tanager
Genus? Saltator rufiventris - Rufous-bellied 'Saltator'[21

d) Typical tanagers (3 genera)
Genus Thraupis - Thraupis bonariensis at least belongs here
Genus Pipraeidea – Fawn-breasted Tanager
Genus Iridosornis (5 species)

e) Typical multicoloured tanagers (6 genera)
(includes Paroaria traditionally placed in either Emberizidae or Cardinalidae)
Genus Diuca (2 species)
Genus Lophospingus (2 species)
Genus Neothraupis – White-banded Tanager
Genus Cissopis – Magpie Tanager
Genus Paroaria (5–6 species)
Genus Schistochlamys (2 species)

Green Honeycreeper, Chlorophanes spiza

f) Green & Golden-collared Honeycreepers
(2 genera)
Genus Chlorophanes – Green Honeycreeper
Genus Iridophanes – Golden-collared Honeycreeper

g) Typical honeycreepers and relatives (4 genera)
Genus Tersina – Swallow Tanager
Genus Cyanerpes, the typical honeycreepers (4 species)
Genus Pseudodacnis – Turquoise Dacnis-tanager
Genus Dacnis, the dacnises (8 species)

h) Basal lineages within group 2 (5 genera)
Genus Chlorochrysa (3 species)
Genus Parkerthraustes – Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak (traditionally in      Cardinalidae, but biochemical evidence suggests it is a tanager)
Genus Nemosia – (2 species)
Genus Compsothraupis – Scarlet-throated Tanager
Genus Sericossypha – White-capped Tanager

Group 3

(2 genera)
Genus Saltator (16 species; traditionally placed in Cardinalidae, but      biochemical evidence suggests they may be tanagers or a sister group
Genus Saltatricula – Many-colored Chaco-finch. Traditionally placed in the      Emberizidae but may be related to one of the Saltators

Thraupidae incertae sedis (Latin for "of uncertain placement")(13 genera)
Genus Mitrospingus (2 species)
Genus Orthogonys – Olive-green Tanager
Genus Calochaetes – Vermilion Tanager
Genus Catamblyrhynchus – Plushcap or Plush-capped Finch
Genus Oreothraupis – Tanager-finch
Genus Urothraupis – Black-backed Bush-tanager
Genus Rhodinocichla – Rosy Thrush-tanager
Genus Lamprospiza – Red-billed Pied Tanager
Genus Phaenicophilus – palm-tanagers (2 species)
Genus Xenoligea – White-winged warbler
Genus Microligea – Green-tailed warbler
Genus Calyptophilus – chat-tanagers (2 species)
Genus Nesospingus – Puerto Rican Tanager


Recently split from Thraupidae

Western Tanager, Piranga ludoviciana

Related to Arremonops and other American sparrows in Emberizidae:
Genus Chlorospingus – bush-tanagers (around 10 species)

Related to the cardinals in Cardinalidae:
Genus Piranga – northern tanagers (9 species)
Genus Habia – ant-tanagers or habias (5 species)
Genus Chlorothraupis (3 species)
Genus Amaurospiza (4 species; apparently very close to Cyanocompsa)
Genus Spindalis – spindalises (4 species).

Fringillidae, subfamily Euphoniinae:
Genus Euphonia (over 25 species)
Genus Chlorophonia (5 species)

Text and small pictures from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanager

Genus Coereba

Bananaquit, Coereba flaveola

Two bananaquits on a branch
Photo: Leon-bojarczuk

The Bananaquit, Coereba flaveola, is a species of passerine bird of uncertain relation. It is tentatively placed in the tanager family,
but classified as incertae sedis by other authorities such as the American Ornithologists' Union. Its classification is debated,
and it is often placed in its own family: Coerebidae. It has recently been suggested the Bananaquit should be split into three species,
but this has yet to receive widespread recognition. This small, active nectarivore is found in warmer parts of the Americas, and is
generally common.

The Bananaquit is a small bird, although there is some degree of size variation across the various subspecies.
Length can range from 7.5 to 12.5 centimetres. Weight ranges from 5.5 to 19 grams.

Most subspecies of the Bananaquit have dark grey (almost black) upperparts, black crown and sides of the head, a prominent
white eyestripe, grey throat, white vent, and yellow chest, belly and rump.

The sexes are alike, but juveniles are duller and often have a partially yellow eyebrow and throat. In the subspecies bahamensis
and caboti from the Bahamas and Cozumel, respectively, the throat and upper chest are white or very pale grey, while ferryi
from La Tortuga Island has a white forehead.

Bananaquit photographed feeding on an orange in its natural habitat in Dominica

Photo: Charlesjsharp


There are at present 39 subspecies.
The subspecies laurae, lowii and melanornis from small islands off northern Venezuela are overall blackish, while the subspecies aterrima and atrata from Grenada and Saint Vincent have two plumage morphs, one "normal" and another blackish.The pink gape is usually very prominent in the subspecies from islands in the Caribbean Sea.

The Banaquit has a slender, curved bill, adapted to taking nectar from flowers. It sometimes pierces flowers from the side,
taking the nectar without pollinating the plant. It also feeds on sweet juices by puncturing fruit with its beak, and will eat small
insects on occasion. While feeding, the Banaquit must always perch as it cannot hover like a hummingbird.

The Banaquit is known for its ability to adjust remarkably to human environments. It often visits gardens and may become very
tame. Its nickname, the sugar bird, comes from its affinity for bowls or bird feeders stocked with granular sugar, a common
method of attracting these birds. The Bananaquit builds a spherical lined nest with a side entrance hole, laying up to three eggs,
which are incubated solely by the female. It may also build its nest in man-made objects, such as lampshades and garden trellises.
The birds breed all year regardless of season and build new nests throughout the year.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bananaquit

A Bananquit, Coereba flaveola, in its nest at night, in the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica
Photo: Steven G. Johnson

Brazilian Tanager, Ramphocelus bresilius

Brazilian Tanager, Ramphocelus bresilius
Photo: © www.arthurgrosset.com

The Brazilian Tanager, Ramphocelus bresilius, is endemic to the east coast of Brazil from Paraíba to Santa Catarina. In many ways it is similar to the Silver-beaked Tanager Ramphocelus carbo which is much more widespread but does not occur on the east coast.

The male is, however, much more brightly coloured than the Silver-beaked Tanager. Like all Ramphocelus tanagers it has a shiny white area at the base of the lower mandible. The male acquires this plumage in its second year and immature males look like a mixture of male and female plumage.
The female is much duller but only in comparison to her mate. They are very attractive in their own right.

They are normally found near water, either the ocean or a river



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