Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Panama City's common tanagers

Panama City is blessed with a great diversity of wildlife within its limits, not only birds, but also mammals and other critters. This is thanks to the many types of habitats surrounding it, like the extensive mudflats of its coast, the forests to the west and north and the savannah to the east. But we can't forget that part of this diversity actually reach the very same concrete jungle, as long as there is any tree or shrub, though decorative. Often, this diversity strikes us as a colorful kaleidoscope in the form of birds so common that most panamanians don't even turn to see them. I'm talking about two beautiful tanagers, antagonist in color and well-known by its popular names. The first is the ubiquitous Blue-gray Tanager, widespread known as the "Azulejo" by its soft blue tones. Think about it... blue tones, big black eyes and sweet chattering make this bird sooo charming. They are found in groups, and are common visitors to feeders (they love bananas). These birds are so sociable, that they even nest in man-made structures, including our own homes! Despite most of the citizens can identify an Azulejo quite easily, not all of them distinguish it form the very similar Palm Tanager, which is as sociable and charming as the Azulejo, but less known and duller-colored in olive with black wings... but a closer look usually reveals its attractive violet tones (enlarge the photo). In some parts of the city, both species can be very tame, sharing a feeder or a bird bath very close to the observers without fear. The other species is known by us as the "Sangre e' toro" (bull's blood)... a name that becomes immediately obvious when you see an adult male Crimson-backed Tanager showing its bright-red contrasting with the velvet black and the silver beack in all its brilliance! Of course, the duller females and immatures (photo below) exceed in number the adult males, but these birds always are found in groups with at least one adult male attending. This species is less common than the Blue-gray Tanager, but still pretty common. A family group regularly visit the Espave tree at the parking lot of the hospital where I work (the other two tanagers do the same), giving some color to the otherwise homogeneous landscape of concrete and glass. The tanagers are only a minimal example of the birds commonly found within the city limits... there is even a book on the theme (A Guide to the Common Birds of Panama City by Jorge Ventocilla, illustrated by Dana Gardner) that I'll follow for future posts. So, take your time to appreciate these colorful birds sharing the city with us!

1 comment:

  1. The Blue-gray Tanager is my favorite Tanager of all. I adore that last photo of the Scarlet-rumped Tanager. What a great shot.