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A photo of a Swallow Tanager (Tersina viridis), male
Swallow Tanager, Male

Swallow Tanager

Tersina viridis

The Swallow Tanager (Tersina viridis) is a captivating Neotropic bird, belonging to the tanager family Thraupidae. It is the sole representative of its genus, Tersina. Exhibiting sexual dimorphism, the female is adorned in a yellow-green plumage, while the male is resplendent in turquoise blue with a distinctive deep black face and upper throat patch.

Identification Tips

To identify the Swallow Tanager, look for the male's bright turquoise blue plumage contrasted with a black face and throat. The flanks are barred black, and the lower belly is white. The female, on the other hand, is bright green with dusky-olive barring on the flanks and lacks the black face mask. Both sexes have a broad flat bill and measure 14.5–15 cm in length.

Habitat

Swallow Tanagers are known to be gregarious birds that prefer to stay within their own flocks rather than mingle with other species. They are often seen sallying after insects from an exposed perch and are unique among tanagers for sometimes excavating a hole in a bank to nest.

Distribution

This species has a wide range across South America, from eastern Panama to the northern reaches of Argentina.

Behaviour

These birds exhibit gregarious behavior, often seen in groups, yet they do not typically associate with other bird species. They have a unique nesting behavior among tanagers, occasionally choosing to dig out a nest in a bank.

Song & Calls

The Swallow Tanager communicates with a variety of vocalizations, which can be heard on audio recordings available through resources like Xeno-canto.

Breeding

The Swallow Tanager's breeding habits include the rare behavior of excavating nesting holes in banks, a trait not commonly observed in other tanager species.

Similar Species

While the Swallow Tanager is unique in its genus, birdwatchers should be aware of other tanagers to avoid confusion. However, the male's bright turquoise plumage and the nesting habits are distinctive identifiers.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Swallow Tanager primarily consists of fruit, but they are also known to catch insects in flight, darting out from perches to snag their prey.

Conservation status

The Swallow Tanager is currently listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, indicating that, at present, there are no immediate threats to its population numbers that would warrant a higher level of concern.

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