Back in early May, when the Bird of the Week shifted to Tanagers, WC warned that there were dozens of species. Here’s the fifteenth.
This is a species WC has only seen one time; it’s a canopy dweller, spending most of its time in the upper canopy, a hundred feet or more over the heads of would-be birders. A birder can get around that problem by visiting a canopy tower, a platform that takes you up into the tops of the trees (after a hot, sweaty climb of hundreds of steps, of course). Sometimes, as here, there are as many as three towers, connected by hanging bridges that sway in the breeze, or to the motions of birders gingerly crossing them. Which is where this photo was taken. Before you criticize it, consider: it was taken from a swaying suspension bridge, 120 feet above the ground, pointing a camera and a big lens downwards at a moving bird. It’s a great way to see birds you are otherwise going to miss, but its not ideal for bird photography, acrophobes or anyone with a lingering sense of personal safety.
Oh, yeah, the bird.
This is a male Flame-crested Tanager, one of ten or so subpsecies. As noted, they are an upper canopy dweller, especially in the Amazon basin. They subsist on a mixed diet of fruits and insects. It’s an enthusiastic member of mixed flocks, foraging with unrelated species in groups of 50 -100 birds. This fellow was among a pretty amazing group of spectacular tanagers and antbirds.
Again, not a very good photo but it shows why the bird is called “flame-crested.” As you might expect, this canopy-dwelling, Neotropic species is very poorly studied. Science knows little about them. Habitat loss, with the clear-cutting of forests, is an obvious threat, but the existing numbers are unknown. The species’ range is pretty large – all of the Amazon basin and and the Brazillian Atlantic seaboard – but then so is the extent of habitat loss.
The canopy tower bridge? All right, if you insist:
But seriously, this is a spectacular bird, well worth the effort to see.
For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.