The Seven-colored Tanager is hard to miss, decked out in eye-catching shades of turquoise, green, blue, yellow, and orange. The colorful bird prefers the humid Atlantic forests of eastern Brazil, an area known for other spectacular species, including Gilt-edged Tanager, a close relation.
The birds’ forests have dwindled, putting pressure on these and other rare species such as Stresemann’s Bristlefront. Eighty-five percent of the original Atlantic Forest has been cleared, and only small fragments remain. Habitat loss, along with capture for the caged-bird trade, has made Seven-colored Tanager as rare as it is colorful.
Fortunately, the species shows signs of adapting to secondary forests — previously deforested sites where trees are growing again. Together with partner SAVE Brasil, ABC has set out to protect the most important remaining fragment of northeastern Atlantic Forest — the Pernambuco Endemic Area — by planting trees and protecting border areas of old-growth forest in the Serro do Urubu Reserve.
The efforts are paying off. In the last five years, Seven-colored Tanager’s local range has expanded into new forest areas, and the bird’s population appears to be increasing in Serro do Urubu, which is run by SAVE Brasil. Plans are afoot to expand the reserve by 181 acres.
Seven-colored Tanagers are usually seen in pairs or small groups, often in mixed-species flocks that forage through the forest canopy.
To nest successfully, Seven-colored Tanager needs trees that host plants called bromeliads (also known as epiphytes or “air plants”), where the birds build their twig nests. In addition to providing nesting sites for tanagers and other birds, bromeliads attract hummingbirds like the Ruby-topaz.
Bromeliads help support biodiversity in tropical rainforests. But they require a high level of humidity, and forest fragments and edges tend to be too dry for them. That makes protecting and restoring what’s left of the Atlantic Forest essential to the survival of Seven-colored Tanager and many other species.
A version of this article appeared in the June 2017 issue of BirdWatching magazine.
This story was provided by American Bird Conservancy, a 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas.
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