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It is a small and agile species of tanager, which exhibits strikingly different plumage between males and females.

Meet the black-headed tanager:

""image"" “Tanager heinei / Black-headed Tanager (male)” by felixú is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Description : The black-headed tanager (Stilpnia heinei) is a species of neotropical bird belonging to the family Thraupidae. The black-headed tanager is about 13 centimeters (5 in) long and weighs between 18 and 20 grams. Its features include a dark brown iris, black bill, and black legs. Male black-capped tanagers sport a black crown that extends to the lobe, forehead, and top of the nape. Their upperparts exhibit a shiny silvery-blue-gray hue, which contrasts sharply with the black crown. The throat, sides of the neck, sides of the head to the eyes and chest glow an aquamarine or opalescent green, with black-based feathers, giving it a striped appearance, especially on the chest. The remaining underparts are a dull grayish-blue, except for the undertail coverts, which have dark centers and broad white edges.


“Black-headed tanagra (f) JCB (cropped and mirrored)” by Joseph C Boone is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

In contrast, females have a dark crown with green-edged feathers and their upperparts are a uniform bright green. The primary coverts of females are dark with a green outer edge, while the greater coverts are dark on the inner half and dull green on the outer half. Their wing coverts are generally green.

Immature males look like females but have pale blue edges on their primary feathers. Juvenile and immature individuals of both sexes are duller than adult females. Subadult males exhibit a mix of adult male and female plumage.


“Tangara heinei / Black-capped tanager / Black-headed tanager (male)” by felixú is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

It resides all year round in the mountainous regions of Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela. These birds can frequently be observed in open landscapes, either alone or in pairs, taking refuge under the branches of trees and bushes. Its natural habitat consists of tropical or subtropical moist montane forests, as well as highly degraded ancient forests.


“Tangara heinei / Black-capped tanager / Black-headed tanager (male)” by felixú is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Habitat and Distribution Black-headed tanagers inhabit the tropical humid montane forests of northern Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela. They can be found on the margins of subtropical forests, secondary forests and on trees and shrubs in nearby open areas.


“Black-headed tanagra” by ryanacandee is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Diet These tanagers feed mainly on insects, foraging in low bushes and trees near the trunk, on branches that may be bare or covered with moss. They also consume fruits, including berries and cecropia.

""image"" “Tangara heinei / Black-capped tanager / Black-headed tanager (male)” by felixú is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The black-headed tanager can be confused with the silver-backed tanager (Stilpnia viridicollis) at the southern end of its range. However, female silver-backed tanagers have a coppery rather than green throat. The beryl-spangled tanager (Tangara nigroviridis) is another similar species, but lacks the black crown and displays a uniformly opalescent head.

""image"" “calliste argenté, saíra-prateada, silver-back tanager, silvery tanager, silver-backed tanager” by thibaudaronson is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. (cut)

Reproduction During wetter periods, both male and female black-capped tanagers participate in feeding their young and building the nest. The exterior of the nest consists mainly of rootlets and lichens, sometimes moss, held together by cobwebs and egg sacs. The interior of the nest contains lichens, rootlets and strips of grass. The female shapes the nest into a cup by pressing her body down and vibrating. The female incubates the eggs for an average of 14 days while the male occasionally provides food. If a nest predator, such as the green jay, approaches, the female will dive into the nest to protect her eggs.


“Tangara heinei / Black-capped tanager / Black-headed tanager (male)” by felixú is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Behavior Black-headed tanagers are often seen alone or in pairs, and frequently seek shelter under branches. Its behavior and ecology share similarities with other montane tanager species. However, they are more commonly seen foraging in clearings and outside dense forests, often in pairs, rather than in mixed flocks.


“Tangara heinei / Black-capped tanager / Black-headed tanager (male)” by felixú is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Conservation Status The global population of black-headed tanagers remains unknown, but they are described as rare within their range. As of 2018, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies them as a species of “least concern” due to the absence of evidence of decline in their population or distribution. Their ability to inhabit disturbed forest habitats has likely contributed to this classification. However, potential future threats may arise if disturbances such as nest intrusions increase.

""image"" “Black-headed tanagra” by ryanacandee is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Watch this bird go about its daily activities below:

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