Don’t get confused by the name, this is not the Scarlet Tanager, which incidentally has very bright red colors. The Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager is just unbelievably handsome. It has a dark body which can look blueish under the right light. The belly is a deep scarlet color, although some subspecies may show different shades of this red. It also has a red patch on the ear, and two blue patches, one in the shoulder and the other on the rump. Just as its name, it is a very elegant bird, specially when set against a contrasting green background. It shares the same genus with the Blue-winged and the Lachrymose Mountain-Tanagers, however I really find this species to be pinnacle of beauty. We saw them at about 3,000 meters above sea level, during our visit to Termales del Ruiz.
Few birds can claim legendary status, except the Resplendent Quetzal. To see it free, you have to go the Cloud Forest, either in Monteverde or in Cerro Buenavista, hike your way inside the dense canopy, and wait. Luckily, the conservation tourism efforts put forward by people in both areas ensure that we have easier access to them, while they live and nest in essentially undisturbed areas. Mountain hotels like Paraiso Quetzal Lodge are making the difference, protecting this sacred bird for the new generations to delight on their sight. The communities are also organized, with families cooperating to keep track of birds and nests, alerting the guides of its location to guarantee tourists a sight, but also raising data on activity of the birds that can be used for scientific research.
I could simply describe this bird as marvelous. The male has a scarlet belly and chest, with iridescent emerald green wing coverts, back and head. The wing feathers are actually green, while the underside of the true tail is white. The bill is yellow, and the iris is deep black. On the top of the head, some orange feathers break the green pattern. The most bizarre feature is the long “tail” feathers, measuring more than its standard body length, which breeding males carry fully grown from November to around May, at the end of the breeding season. They use those feathers to compete with other males to attract a female. While the female is not as exuberant, it is also a beauty. Their preferred food is the “Aguacatillo” fruit, which translates to “little avocado”. There are many species of this tree, which grow and bear fruit at different elevations and different times of the year, provoking what is known as altitudinal migration.
The Scarlet-rumped Tanager is known locally as “Sargento” (Seargent) and “Sangre de Toro” (Bull’s blood), among other names. Previously it was known as the Passerini´s Tanager, being virtually identical to the Cherries Tanager, but only inhabiting the Caribbean, whereas the Cherries was only found in the pacific. In sunlight, the red rump of the male glows strongly, contrasting with the deep black in the eyes and the rest of the body. The female is brownish in coloration, and differs from the Cherries by not having the orange throat. The Juvenile male has the same coloration as the female, however as it morphs into adult plumage, patches of black start to show in the body, giving it kind of a Calico look.