Birder's Guide

MAR 2018

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 22 of 73

21 April 2018 | Birder's Guide to Travel range-restricted, rare species and undeniable beauty and cha- risma secured this species's position in the Top 5. #6 • White-capped Tanager Sericossypha albocristata For decades, the word tanager and the family Thraupidae were used as a catch-all for any bird smallish, colorful, and prone to flocking. Their shapes, colors, and sizes boggle con- ventional comprehension of closely related species. White- capped Tanager is one of the prime examples of a tanager that defies the idea of a tanager. It's a large bird—both longer and heavier than other tanagers. It's loud. Most tanagers have very high-pitched songs and calls that don't carry great distances, but the vocalizations of White-capped Tanagers are easily de- tected from hundreds of meters away. White-capped Tanagers don't join the mixed-species flocks that South America is famous for. Instead, they travel together in family groups. They're outstanding birds with outstanding iridescent plum- age, gleaming snow-white heads, and deep crimson throats. After hearing a distant group calling, I used playback during our last day in promising habitat. True to their curious nature, a flock of White-capped Tanagers flew across the valley and descended upon us in a hail of raucous squawks and outland- ish color. A few individuals were no more than 15 feet away! Though it was but one member of a family we had recorded more than 100 species of during our time in Colombia, we this case, atmosphere and environment had as much to do with this species's inclusion in the Top 10 as the nature and beauty of the bird itself. The bird is undeniably a beauti- ful one, with subtle gradients of shock-blue into dusky grey, even white, and a gleaming yellow eye that gives an air of comprehension and curiosity that the bird's behavior seems to affirm. Our experience with a flock of five individuals ca- vorting atop a tree just above eye level on the slope below us was a memorable one, with umbrellabirds displaying and parrots coming in to roost as we gazed across the treetops to a sunset horizon. #5 • White-tipped Quetzal Pharomachrus fulgidus As we were descending from the highest access in the Santa Marta range, I heard the distinctive "giggle" of a quetzal. While the advertising song of males carries far and typically consists of a series of disyllabic tones repeated at intervals, quetzals utter a litany of less-obvious cackles, giggles, pips, and so forth. It took less than two minutes after stepping out of the vehicles before we were face-to-face with a stunning adult male White-tipped Quetzal. This species is restricted to the few coastal mountain ranges of northeastern Colombia and northwestern Venezuela. A combination of the allure of a Photo © Nick Athanas Photo © Tom Friedel # 7 # 8

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