MITROSPINGID TANAGERS Mitrospingidae
- 4 species in the Neotropics
- DR personal total: 4 species (100%), 1 photo'd
Here (above & below) are photos of Olive-green Tanager,
an endemic to coastal southeastern Brazil. A nice enough bird but
hardly one of the many spectacular tanagers of the Neotropics. So why
is it headlining a Family page?
The last decade or
so has seen many surprises in the molecular evidence of New World
passerines, and especially the "nine-primaried" passerines near the end
of any checklist. Birds that were once considered "tanagers" — like
Scarlet, Summer and Western Tanagers — are, in fact, related to
cardinals and grosbeaks. Likewise, a whole lot of birds once considered
to be "finches" of some sort — the Galapagos finches, to name just one
set — are, in fact, tanagers; Burns et al. 2014; see my Tanager page
for an overview). Several of these studies (e.g., Yuri & Mindell
2002, Kilicka et al. 2007) found that certain genera of "tanagers" were
neither fish nor fowl (i.e., neither tanagers nor grosbeaks) but a
separate lineage. The most recent evidence is in Barker et al. (2013),
the those authors propose a separate Family for four species of these
uncertain taxa. The family Mitrospingidae includes three genera: Mitrospingus, Lamprospiza, and Orthogonys. Olive-green Tanager is the only species in genus Orthogonys.
Olive-green Tanager is mostly in the understory. In contrast, Red-billed Pied Tanager prefers the canopy of lowland forest (left,
in an Arthur Grosset photo taken from a canopy tower). There it forages
among mixed species flocks, primarily in search of fruit. It ranges
through the Amazon Basin lowlands.
The Family name is derived from genus Mitrospingus, assigned to two species: Dusky-faced Tanager M. cassinii and Olive-backed Tanager M. oleagineus.
Dusky-faced Tanager is a big-billed species of humid lowland forests
from Costa Rica south to Ecuador. Olive-backed Tanager is a
similar-looking bird of mostly subtropical montane forests in northern
South America (such as tepuis in Venezuela, Guyana, n. Brazil). Both
are primarily understory birds and occur in flocks. Dusky-faced was a
dominant species in subtropical forest along the old Buenaventura Road
in Colombia back in July 1975 (up to 80/day when multiple flocks
encountered). In a recent visit to southeastern Brazil, Olive-green
Tanager was found daily in understory flocks (up to 25/day). The
plumage of the Mitrospingus tanagers is along the lines of
Olive-green Tanager, so Red-billed Pied is the single "odd" member of
the family in plumage and behavior. It, too, occurs in flocks, but
usually just 6-10. These could be extended family groups.
Photos: The Olive-green Tanager Orthogonys chloricterus was at Intervales NP, Brazil in July 2010. Arthur Grosset photographed the Red-billed Pied Tanager Lamprospiza melanoleuca at Caxiuanã, Pará, Brazil, in July 2006 . Photo © Don Roberson & © Arthur Grosset, and used with permission; all rights reserved.
Arthur Grosset has many spectacular photos of Neotropical birds on his website.
There is no "family book" per se. The species in this set have been
previously covered in books on tanagers, such as Islet & Isler
(1987) and the applicable Handbook of the Birds of the World chapter.
F.K., K.J. Burns, J. Klicka, S.M. Lanyon, and I.J. Lovette. 2013. Going
to extremes: contrasting rates of diversification in a recent radiation
of New World passerine birds. Syst. Biol. 62: 298-320.
K.J., A.J. Schultz, P.O. Title, N.A. Mason, F.K. Barker, J. Klicka,
S.M. Lanyon, and I.J. Lovette. 2014. Phylogenetics and diversification
of tanagers (Passeriformes: Thraupidae), the largest radiation of
Neotropical songbirds. Molec. Phylo. Evol. 75: 41-77.
Klicka, J., K. Burns, and G.M. Spellman. 2007. Defining a monophyletic
Cardinalini: A molecular perspective. Molec. Phylog. Evol. 45: 1014
M. L., and P. R. Isler. 1987. The Tanagers: Natural History,
Distribution, and Identification. Smithsonian Instit. Press,
T., and D.P. Mindell. 2002. Molecular phylogenetic analysis of
Fringillidae, "New World nine-primaried oscines" (Aves: Passeriformes).
Molec. Phylog. Evol. 23: 229-243.