Common Bush-Tanager

In Costa Rica, Common Bush-Tanagers (Chlorospingus ophthalmicus) are very common in the moist, highland forests of both the Pacific and Caribbean slopes up to about 7500 feet (2286 m) in elevation. These small tanagers range from central Mexico to northwestern Argentina and to Bolivia. This particular Common Bush-Tanager was eating berries at the edge of the oak cloud forest in San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica.

Common Bush-Tanager (Chlorospingus ophthalmicus) eating a crushed berry

Common Bush-Tanagers feed on insects, spiders, flower nectar, and berries. Since they don't have long, nectar-probing bills like hummingbirds, Common Bush-Tanagers will pick flowers and then press them in their beaks to get the nectar out. Common Bush-Tanagers also have a somewhat unusual method of eating berries. They will crush the berries in their bills, swallow the seeds and the sweet pulp, and then discard the skin. The Common Bush-Tanager in the above photo holds the empty, blue husk of a berry after swallowing the far more tasty pulpy insides.

As they forage for food, Common Bush-Tanagers will usually travel in small, noisy flocks, often with other tanagers and other small birds. Common Bush-Tanagers have high-pitched, twittering songs.

Even though they are not boldly or brilliantly colored, Common Bush-Tanagers are actually quite easy to identify due to their distinctive postocular spot, a bold arc of white behind the eye. Common Bush-Tanagers are olive-green above and have a brown head, red-brown eyes, a blackish bill, a grayish throat and belly, and a dull yellow chest, sides, flanks, and crissum. This coloration is very similar to that of the other Bush-Tanagers (Chlorospingus spp.) found in Costa Rica, but none of the others have the Common Bush-Tanager's white postocular spot.