The paradise tanager is as beautiful as its name suggests. It’s a tropical bird with feathers in blue, red, green, and deep black.
There’s more to the paradise tanager than meets the eye, though. Read on to find out 13 incredible facts about this gorgeous bird.
1. A Paradise Tanager’s Rump Determines Its Subspecies
There are four subspecies of the paradise tanager, and the bird’s behind determines which one it is. The paradise tanager has very distinct sections of color all over its body, including its rump.
One subspecies has a completely red behind, while the other three have a mix of red and yellow.
2. Their Super Black Feathers May Influence Their Mate Preferences
Paradise tanagers are a mix of vibrant colors and “super black” patches. Research suggests that the contrast between these colors is a way to enhance the appearance of the more colorful feathers.
This “color correction” makes the colored areas seem like they’re emitting their own light, making them pop. This evolution of color may bias the paradise tanagers when it comes to selecting a mate.
3. They Are Not “Birds Of Paradise”
“Birds of paradise” is a nickname for the very colorful and ornate members of the Paradisaeidae family. Almost all these birds live in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and Australia.
The paradise tanager has the same kind of vibrant patchwork of colors as a bird of paradise. But despite its name, it’s not truly part of this group.
Instead, the paradise tanager is part of the Thraupidae family with the other tanagers. It also lacks the large ruff and long, bright feathers for which birds of paradise are also famous. It is a tropical bird, though, living throughout the Amazon basin.
4. Paradise Tanagers Are Used On Stamps
The paradise tanager has a vibrant blue chest and underbelly, surrounded by super black feathers. Its head is a bright yellow-green, and it can have rump patches in shades of red, orange, and yellow.
This striking mix of colors inspires artists around the world. So much so that no less than four countries have used it as a mailing stamp image. These birds feature on stamps in Guyana, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Surinam.
They never settle down in open areas without full canopy coverage. This includes areas such as river mouths or floodplains.
The only way to see a paradise tanager is to head to the trees.
5. They May Get Their Plumage From Their Diet
Many birds do not get their bright colors on their own. The colors come from pigments that the birds can’t naturally produce in their bodies.
Instead, the pigments come from the insects and plants that they eat.
The paradise tanager is one of these birds. Although it’s not clear exactly what gives them their colors, researchers believe it comes from their fruit and insect diet.
Since tanagers live in the Amazon, the insects and plants they eat are brighter in color than in other habitats. The tanager then absorbs those pigments into their own bodies, resulting in their colorful plumage.
6. Paradise Tanagers Are Omnivores
A paradise tanager has plenty of colorful food to eat in the Amazon forests. Though most of their diet consists of fruit, they do also eat arthropod insects.
One study suggests that 85% of their duet is fruit and the other 15% is insects.
7. They Primarily Feed Their Young Insects
Baby birds need to do a lot of growing in a short period of time. They also don’t need much energy to move around and fly like their parents since they’re still in the nest.
Tanager nestlings don’t venture out on their own until about two to three weeks.
Instead of feeding them fruit, paradise tanagers mostly feed their young insects. This gives them the protein they need to build muscle and grow large enough to fly on their own.
A fledgling diet can consist of caterpillars, spiders, and crickets.
8. Female Paradise Tanagers Build Cup Nests
Both the male and female are together during nest construction.
Typically, though, the female is the only one who does the building. The male acts as sort of a companion, staying nearby and sometimes singing.
The female tanager gathers material such as moss, twigs, and even spider webs to build a cup-shaped nest.
9. They Have A “Dawn Song”
Paradise tanagers do sing, but only have around three different notes they call.
One of these is a “dawn song,” a series of chirps they sing every morning.
10. Their Latin Name Means “From Chile”
The Latin name for a paradise tanager is Tangara chilensis. The first part, of course, refers to the fact that it’s a tanager. But the second part, “chilensis” means “of Chile.”
Despite this name, paradise tanagers do not live in Chile. They live further north in the Amazon basin in countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador, and Peru.
The name’s origin is unclear, but it may have come from early researchers seeing a stray tanager near the border.
11. They Are A “Least Concern” Species
Despite climate change and deforestation, the paradise tanager is in a good spot.
The IUCN Red List puts this species in the “least concern” category. This means it’s currently not in danger of extinction.
12. Paradise Tanagers Are Never Out In The Open
Paradise tanagers like being high in the canopy of the Amazon evergreen forests.
They especially like being near fruiting trees, as fruit makes up such a large part of their diet.
13. Paradise Tanagers Flock With Other Birds
The paradise tanager is a gregarious bird that doesn’t mind sharing. They’ll often flock with other bird species instead of being territorial.
In particular, they like associating with green-and-gold tanagers and honeycreepers.
However, paradise tanagers don’t like very large groups. Their flocks can have as few as five birds, and they rarely reach 20.
The paradise tanager is both beautiful and fascinating. Even though it’s not a bird of paradise, it has some of the most striking plumage in the world.
These colors have inspired researchers and artists in many countries. We hope these incredible facts about the paradise tanager inspire you as well.