Bird Bios: Paradise Tanagers Appear to Glow in South America

September 24, 2012
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Paradise tanagers are as colorful as parrots and just as plentiful in the Amazon rainforests and throughout northern regions of South America. These small birds are prized by birders, and you can see one of the subspecies on your next Amazon cruise. These creatures travel in mixed-species groups of about five to 20, but rarely remain in one spot for very long.

This bird species is very similar to other tanager species in the region - the green-headed and seven-colored tanagers. Paradise tanagers can be distinguished from the other species by their coloration. They have black wings, tails and napes, bright and light blue throats and abdomens, neon green heads and red or yellow rear ends. Green-headed tanagers have green tails and seven-colored tanagers barely feature any black at all, with just a hint around the throat. International Expeditions' guests have spotted as many as 18-2o tanager species during their small-ship cruises include hooded tanager, swallow tanager, palm tanager, masked tanager, scarlet tanager and Guira tanager.

There is a color variation among the four subspecies of these tanagers, which depends on the birds' location. Those found in the Amazon River region are characterized by red rear ends. Paradise tanagers found in other South American regions have varying shades of yellow adorning their rumps.

Paradise birds spend their time in the treetops, foraging for seeds, fruit and small bugs. Sometimes, they will travel down to lower areas in search of tasty treats, so be sure to pay extra close attention when your excursion boat passes by any fruit trees on the shores of the Amazon.

Nature travel enthusiasts can listen for the calls of the paradise tanagers in the early morning. These birds cry out with a high-pitched chirp that repeats quickly. The sound is a short chirp followed by a high-pitched, brief warble. These tiny birds are only about five inches long, so they may be difficult to spot high in the rainforest canopy.

Listening for the bird calls can be the best way to locate these colorful creatures, as their coloration makes them blend in nicely with the sky and leaves. Bring a pair of binoculars so you can scan the treetops for these colorful little birds when you hear their calls.