Hummingbirds, parrots, toucans, these are all names readily identified by anyone, animals that primary teachers throughout the world talk about to their children hoping to instill awe and wonder in their inquisitive minds.
But little does anyone mention tanagers. These spectacular birds, so vivid in color, so present throughout our Ecuadorian forests, are also New World jewels in their own right. Only found in the Americas, 143 species of tanagers abound just in Ecuador; half the amount of tanager species found on our planet.
The Limón-Indanza road alone, a stretch of some 100 km, is home to over 30 of these (and counting), from the higher elevation mountain-tanagers to the glorious Paradise Tanager of the eastern tropics. There are blindingly opalescent spectacles like the Beryl-spangled Tanager, and striking birds like the Magpie Tanager, Ecuador’s very own lookalike of a specialty found only in the northern hemisphere.
As a family, they exemplify, even more so than hummingbirds, parrots, and toucans, our country’s astonishing biodiversity. They have put many a scientist in deep taxonomic binds, and are one of the many reasons to pay attention to trees and bushes when visiting natural settings throughout the country.