Hepatic Tanager

Hepatic Tanager (Piranga flava): Tangara bermeja; Piranga orangé; Zinnobertangare

From May until early September the all-red male Costa Rican resident Hepatic Tanager is unlikely to be confused with any other species. Our excursion to Tausito this week was a huge success and this is one of the species that is regularly observed in that area, between Pejibaye and Tapantí. On this occasion we were lucky to find a pair that was feeding fairly low down and thus camera-accessible:

Male Hepatic Tanager at Tausito; photo by John Beer
Female Hepatic Tanager at Tausito, looking more green than yellow; photo by John Beer

In mid-September large numbers of Summer Tanagers, a very common and well-known species, begin to arrive from North America. Despite their much brighter red tones and pale bill, these are occasionally misidentified as Hepatic Tanagers. The male Hepatic below was seen in good light and found at considerable elevation east-south-east of here at Grano de Oro. To me, its colour is more suggestive of a male Red-crowned Ant-Tanager (see the bird guides for this Pacific species), a species not found in our area at all. I hope to be able to safely separate the Hepatic Tanager from the Summer Tanager without too much trouble on future occasions.

Male Hepatic Tanager at Grano de Oro; photo by John Beer

Identification of an unaccompanied female Hepatic Tanager may be problematic if not seen well, but the underparts, in particular, are much brighter than those of the more ochre-coloured female Summer Tanager, or of both sexes of Carmiol’s Tanager (formerly known as Olive Tanager), whose underparts are rather dull. Carmiol’s is likely to be found in small flocks and is an exclusively Caribbean species most frequently recorded in our area in the vicinity of Rancho Naturalista and at El Copal. On our Tausito excursion John and Milena, Steven, and I did not record it, despite identifying 117 different species between us. Lots of credit must go again to friend Steven Aguilar Montenegro of San Rafael de Pavones. As one of the very best of the country’s bird guides, he’s a frequent and invaluable companion who calls our attention to many species that we would otherwise easily miss. And of course I did still manage to miss a good number! For the next highlight from the Tausito trip see my next post on the Brown-billed Scythebill.

Check out our Tausito sightings from January 27. Many beautiful species were observed or heard, mostly during a walk of no more than 2 km:


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