Birder's Guide

NOV 2013

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 21 of 67

What the Heck is a Tanager? Hepatic) moved to the Cardinalidae. But molecular data support this move, and there are similarities in song, plumage acquisition, and nesting behavior, so maybe this isn't as outlandish as many of us thought. The common name "tanager" was retained for the same reason that the terms warbler, blackbird, sparrow, fycatcher, robin, and so on were used for unrelated birds. Still, the line between the Cardinalidae and Thraupidae is a bit blurry, and these two groups are rather closely related. Perhaps what were once our only regularly occurring "tanagers" will someday be in the tanager family again. But if not, what exactly is a tanager? "Yes, we've been called the 'junk drawer'…" Remember the Muscicapidae? No, not the current one as recognized by the AOU, but Left: Because it specializes in eating seeds, the Palila's bill morphology is not far removed from that of its rosefinch ancestor—a rare feature in what remain of the Hawaiian finches. Photo © Michael L. P. Retter. Top: This cardinalid isn't really a bunting, but no one seems to care when they get a look at a male Orangebreasted Bunting! Photo © Michael L. P. Retter. Bottom: Although now classified by the AOU with the New World sparrows, the Black-faced Grassquit and its relatives appear to be most closely related to other dome-nest-builders of the Caribbean and tropical America. Other members of this group include the famous Darwin's finches of the Galápagos Islands. Photo © Christopher Taylor. 20 Birder's Guide to Listing & Taxonomy | November 2013

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