Tag Archives: Gray-headed Chachalaca

“I was happy” … watching birds


Greyish Saltator and a couple of Palm Tanagers at the feeding station near our breakfast area at the lodge yesterday morning. Our table was closest to the birds.

The greyish saltator (Saltator coerulescens) is a seed-eating songbird that is widespread in the tropical Americas. Traditionally placed in the cardinal family (Cardinalidae), the saltators actually seem to be closer to the tanagers (Thraupidae). In El Salvador, it is well known as dichosofui after the “elaborate” version of its call, which sounds like a drawn-out ¡dichoso fui!, Spanish for “I was happy!”


Blue-gray Tanager looks bluer next to its Palm Tanager relatives.

The Palm Tanager is one of the most widespread and familiar birds of humid lowland forests of the neotropics, from Nicaragua south to southern Brazil. The Palm Tanager is similar in many ways to the Blue-gray Tanager (Thraupis episcopus), although the Palm Tanager is less likely to colonize urban centers, as do Blue-gray Tanagers. Palm Tanagers are common at forest borders, but also occur in the canopy of the interior of forest. As the name suggests, Palm Tanagersoften are associated with palm trees, but by no means are they restricted to living in palms. Their diet is roughly equally balanced between fruit and arthropods.


This is a Gray-headed Chachalaca, a member of the guan family of “jungle turkey” birds.


The Gray-headed Chachalaca is a resident of Central America from Eastern Honduras south to northwest Colombia. Like most species of chachalaca, the Gray-headed Chachalaca is plain in coloration. Bright chestnut primaries, conspicuous in flight, distinguish the Gray-headed Chachalaca from the similar Plain Chachalaca (Ortalis vetula). Gray-headed Chachalacas are largely arboreal and forage in groups of 6 to 12, only occasionally venturing to the ground. These loud birds have a varied diet consisting of fruits such as the spikes of guarumo trees, guavas and guara fruits as well as leaves and sometimes insects. Inhabitants of tangled thickets and brushy second growth woodland, these birds are common throughout most of their range.


Bananas, nom nom.


Palms and Blue-grays sharing papaya.


Scarlet-rumped Tanagers appear on the scene.


Fairly common in humid tropical lowlands. Favors evergreen forest edges, plantations, and verdant second growth, such as areas along roadsides. Forages mainly at low to middle levels often in fairly noisy small groups. Male is unmistakable if seen clearly: velvety black with a blinding scarlet rump. Female is very different: note distinctive bluish-white bill, tawny rump, and grayish head.


Crested Guan, another “jungle turkey.”




A different saltator, the Buff-throated.


Chachalaca, I just like to say the name.


The buff-throated saltator (Saltator maximus) is a seed-eating bird. Traditionally placed in the cardinal family (Cardinalidae), it actually seems to be closer to the tanagers (Thraupidae). It breeds from southeastern Mexico to western Ecuador and northeastern Brazil.

This is the type species of Saltator. Consequently, it and its closest allies would retain the genus name when this apparently polyphyletic group is eventually split up.

The buff-throated saltator is on average 20 cm (7.9 in) long and weighs 42–52 g (1.5–1.8 oz). The adult has a slate-grey head with a white supercilium and a greenish crown. The upperparts are olive green, the underparts are grey becoming buff on the lower belly, and the throat is buff, edged with black.


Our old friend the Clay-colored Thrush.


Banana time.


Good side view of the Buff-throated Saltator.


The female of the Scarlet-rumped Tanager looks completely different!


I note the Scarlet-rumped is eating seeds of the papaya rather than fruit.


Palm and Blue-gray Tanagers feast.