The Red-Rumped Tanager

An American family, the Tanagers are mostly birds of very brilliant plumage. There are 300 species, a few being tropical birds. They are found in British and French Guiana, living in the latter country in open spots of dwellings and feeding on bananas and other fruits. They are also said to do much harm in the rice fields.

In “The Auk,” of July, 1893, Mr. George K. Cherrie, of the Field Museum, says of the Red-Rumped Tanager: “During my stay at Boruca and Palmar, (the last of February) the breeding season was at its height, and I observed many of the Costa Rica Red-Rumps nesting. In almost every instance where possible I collected both parents of the nests, and in the majority of cases found the males wearing the same dress as the females. In a few instances the male was in mottled plumage, evidently just assuming the adult phase, and in a lesser number of examples the male was in fully adult plumage—velvety black and crimson red. From the above it is clear that the males begin to breed before they attain fully adult plumage, and that they retain the dress of the female until, at least, the beginning of the second year.

“While on this trip I had many proofs that, in spite of its rich plumage, and being a bird of the tropics, it is well worthy to hold a place of honor among the song birds. And if the bird chooses an early hour and a secluded spot for expressing its happiness, the melody is none the less delightful. At the little village of Buenos Aires, on the Rio Grande of Terraba, I heard the song more frequently than at any other point. Close by the ranch house at which we were staying, there is a small stream bordered by low woods and underbrush, that formed a favorite resort for the birds. Just below the ranch is a convenient spot where we took our morning bath. I was always there just as the day was breaking. On the opposite bank was a small open space in the brush occupied by the limbs of a dead tree. On one of these branches, and always the same one, was the spot chosen by a Red-rump to pour forth his morning song. Some mornings I found him busy with his music when I arrived, and again he would be a few minutes behind me. Sometimes he would come from one direction, sometimes from another, but he always alighted at the same spot and then lost no time in commencing his song. While singing, the body was swayed to and fro, much after the manner of a canary while singing. The song would last for perhaps half an hour, and then away the singer would go. I have not enough musical ability to describe the song, but will say that often I remained standing quietly for a long time, only that I might listen to the music.”