Blue-Gray Tanager (Thraupis episcopus)
The blue-gray tanager belongs to a large family of small tropical birds. There are over two hundred species of colorful tanagers found from Canada all the way to central Argentina. The blue-gray tanager is a small bird, weighing between 30 - 40 grams and measuring six inches, including its two-inch-long tail. The head, throat and under parts are a pale gray with a greenish-blue tinge. The tail and wings are a bright blue and its back is a darker blue. While both sexes are similar in appearance, the color of the female is generally duller and grayer than that of the male. The birds are usually seen in pairs or small groups. Breeding season is from March to July. During this time, the female lays one to three mottled eggs, which she incubates for 12 to 14 days. Once hatched, both parents feed their chicks.
The habitat of the blue-gray tanager extends from southern Mexico to the northern edge of the Amazon basin. This species lives in semi-open habitats and spends much of its time on the ground searching for small fruits and insects.
Blue-gray tanagers eat a wide variety of fruits, berries and insects, as well as leaves, flowers and nectar. These birds play an important role in seed dispersal for trees and shrubs in the tropics.
Adult blue-gray tanagers are preyed upon by felines, snakes, birds of prey and crocodilians. Other predators, such as raccoons, eat young birds and eggs. Habitat destruction due to deforestation is the primary threat to this species.
- Central Park Zoo: http://www.centralpark.com/guide/central-park-zoo/birds.html
- National Finch and Softbill Society: www.nfss.org/Birds/Species/Softbill/Tanagers/Blue-Gray-Tan.html
- National Aquarium in Baltimore: www.aqua.org/animals_bluegreytanager.html
- Photo by Christopher Ciccone