This beautiful member of the Thraupidae (tanager) family proved to be a difficult species to identify on #BeakoftheWeek.
This large flowerpiercer is easily identifiable with its striking ultramarine plumage, red eyes and black mask. It is slightly larger than a great tit at 15cm and weighs between 12 and 22.5g. Females are similar to males but slightly duller, with juveniles duller still and greyish.
The bill of this species is long and slender with a slight upturn and a small hook at the end of its upper mandible. This small hook is sometimes used to pierce flowers and fruits to get to their internal nutrients, which is where the name “flowerpiercer” comes from. More often than not it feeds on fruits and berries (particularly Melastomataceae species) and some insects.
This species is highly sociable often found in monospecific groups of up to 30 individuals, as well as in mixed flocks of tanagers, other flowerpiercers, warblers and others. They are found in cloud forests (usually above 2000m) of North Western South America from the coastal mountains of Northern Venezuella to Northern Bolivia.
This species breeds at varying times across South America, with immatures reported nearly all year round. They lay their eggs in feather-lined open cup nests made of moss, grass and feathers, usually in bushes. Unfortunately no more information is available on the breeding methods of this species. Seems to me like someone should head out on an expedition…
The songs of this species remind me of those of fairy wrens in Australia. You can have a listen to one singing below, or you can navigate yourself to Xeno Canto for a greater range of flowerpiercer songs.
I have managed to find a few videos of the masked flowerpiercer, and I am rather fond of this one of one feeding some chicks on the internet bird collection. In fact the IBC has got loads of fantastic videos of this species doing all sorts of things. A nice way to while away five minutes or so. I couldn’t get those videos into my post, so here is one I found on the ever reliable youtube to whet your appetite.
Good news relating to the status of this species as it is listed as of Least Concern on the IUCN redlist due to its large range size and the belief that its population size does not approach the thresholds for vulnerable.
Last but not least you can check out what species this fellow is most related to on OneZoom by clicking this link.
. 2010. Masked Flowerpiercer (Diglossa cyanea), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: http://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/portal/species/overview?p_p_spp=637356.
BirdLife International. 2012. Diglossa cyanea. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T22723715A40010593. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2012-1.RLTS.T22723715A40010593.en. Downloaded on 03 December 2015.
Hilty, S. (2011). Masked Flowerpiercer (Diglossa cyanea). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.) (2014). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from http://www.hbw.com/node/61776 on 3 December 2015).
Images and videos
Diglossa cyanea by Ken-ichi ueda is licensed under CC BY-NC 3.0.
Nikhil Patwardhan. 2015. Masked Flowerpiercer – Guango Lodge. Online. 03/09/2015. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-nLkj9G_-A.
Jerome Fischer, XC234634. Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. Accessible at: http://www.xeno-canto.org/234634.