Ant tanagers. Birds  of the world-18

Red throated ant-tanager taken in Costa Rico, Courtesy of Don Faulkner  CC BY-SA 2.0 generic License.


In this series of articles we review the birds that belong to a particular genera. These birds occur all over the world and vary in size shape,lifestyle and breeding habits. here in part-18 of the series we review the birds of the genus Habia,which collectively known as the Ant-Tanagers,which belong to the family Cardinalidae,within the order Passeriformes {perching birds}. they were formerly placed in the Tanager family { Throukpidae} however, the common name is somewhat misleading as they do not eat ants, the name seems to have stuck and no other common name has been put forward.

However, they do follow 'army ant' swarms to catch the insects that are fleeing from the ants.The birds occur in the Americas, they have long tails and stout bills. We commence with the species Red-Crowned Ant-Tanager Habia rubica. 

Red Crowned Ant Tanager { Male}. Habia rubica. Taken in Brazil.

Courtesy of Hector Bottai  CC BY-SA 3.0 License.

Red crowned ant tanager

This species is a medium sized Passerine bird which occurs in tropical America. A resident breeder from Mexico ,south to Paraguay and northern Argentina and on Trinidad,and is relatively common in its wide range.

The red crowned ant tanager is about 7.1 inches {18 cm } long and  weighs thirty four grams {1.2 oz} male or thirty one grams {1.1 oz } female. The adult male is a reddish brown broken with a brighter red throat and breast. The crown is scarlet with a black border.The feathers of the crown may be raised when the bird is excited. The female is yellowish brown above,she has a yellow throat and a yellow-buff crown stripe. They are shy but noisy birds,its call is a rattle followed by a musical 'pirtee,pirtee,pirtee'.

They are birds of the middle stratum of the forests and the undergrowth,rich in ferns,shrubs and herbs. The diet consists of arthropods supplemented by berries. Army ants would agitate insects from the forest bed during their search for food. Thus making the foraging easier for the red crowned ant tanager if they follow the trail of ants snatching up the disturbed insects in their wake. 

Female Red crowned ant Tanager. Taken in Brazil

Courtesy of Dario Sanches  CC BY-SA 2.0 generic License. { uploaded via Snowmanradio}

Breeding, nest and eggs.

The nest of this species is a shallow cup generally located in a sapling or tree fern often close to a stream. The nest is composed of twigs,vines,leaves and mosses.The female will deposit 1-3 eggs white in colour with brown blotches. The incubation period is about thirteen days. The young are born with brownish-salmon coloured skin,with no feathers. The bill is cream coloured with a brown tip. The eyes are closed with grey lids {they open in about a week} however, the chicks seem to be alert and quickly respond to their parents calls and visits.

When the feathers develop they tend to flap their wings in the nest. they will be fed and cared for by their parents for a further ten days after hatching, before the chicks are ready to fledge.

These are very territorial birds, when an invader approaches a loud scolding noise is produced, if the predator continues to move closer they will immediately flee to the cover of vegetation. 

Red throated ant tanager female, Costa Rica

Courtesy of Kathy and Sam {USA} CC BY 2.0 Generic license. Originally posted to Flickr uploaded to Commons by Snowmanradio.


Red Throated Tanager, Habia fusicauda.

This species is about seven and a half inches {19 cm} long. The adult male {See header image} is a dusky red,somewhat paler below with a bright red throat. The central crown is also bright red. The female is brownish olive,paler and greyer below and with a yellowish throat and a small dull yellow crown stripe.

Both sexes are duller and darker than those of the previous species. These birds occur from southeastern Mexico through central South America and northern Colombia mainly along the Atlantic coast. They inhabit the humid undergrowth in evergreen or semi deciduous forests, but also second growth forests,woodlands and thick scrub. They occur in pairs or in small groups of up to eight individuals which defend their territory all year round. They feed mainly by moving slowly through the vegetation foraging on insects and fruit.

The nesting period for this species starts in late March. The female alone builds the nest, however, the male and also group members will help feed the young. Nest success is low and many nest attempts may be tried during the breeding season. 

There are six recognized subspecies.  Habia fusicauda salvini occurring from eastern Mexico to El Salvador.  Habia fuscauda insularis  occurs in the Yucaton Peninsular {southeast Mexico} and northern Guatemala. Habia fuscauda discolor occurs from north east and central and eastern Nicaragua. Habia fuscauda fusicauda the nominate species found from southern Nicaragua to western Panama.  Habia fuscauda willisi, occurs in central Panama and Habia fuscauda erthrolaema occurring in northern Colombia.

Crested Ant tanager.  Colombia.

Courtesy of Francesco Veronesi { Italy }   CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic License.


Crested Ant Tanager. Habia  cristata.

This is a species which is endemic to Colombia where it in habits tropical or sub-tropical lowland moist forests. and mountainous forests. It is a restricted to western Colombia, on the western slopes of the Andes.

The adult is mostly red and it has a long, prominent scarlet crest. The flanks and belly are greyish. Both sexes are similar in appearance, however, the crest of the female is shorter.

Again they are birds of dense vegetation where they forage in pairs or small flocks {these are thought to be family groups}. Although restricted in range they are relatively common. 

Species under threat. Classification by the International Union for Nature Conservation.  IUCN.

There are a further two species in this genus which are under threat to some degree.

The Sooty Ant Tanager, Habia gutturalis, is another species endemic to Colombia, and is classed as being Near Threatened by the IUCN, due to habitat loss and habitat degradation.

The black cheeked Ant tanager, Habia atrimaxillaris, is endemic to the Osa peninsular of Costa Rica,and is threatened by habitat loss and is classed as being endangered by the IUCN.  

Black cheeked Ant Tanager. Habia atrimaxillaris. 

Courtesy of Francesco Veronesi { Italy }, CC BY-2.0 Generic License.


Red- throated Ant tanager. Courtesy of BeilzeBirds. Standard YouTube License.


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