In the Trinidad forest, the Bay-headed Tanager is a distinct species, sporting its red ‘bay’ head and grass- green body. The subspecies, which exhibit variations in plumage, range from Costa Rica to Brazil. Some Tanagers may have blue under-parts while others have grass green under-parts. Some species in Trinidad have green bellies with a bluish tinge. All birds on average are 5.5 inches long.
Also named the Tete Cacao, these birds can be found singly or in pairs and even in flocks of mixed species. They forage among the mid to upper canopy for fruit. One favourite of the Bay-headed Tanagers at Springhill is the fruit of the ‘Trema’. Less often, the Bay-headed Tanager will forage for insects.
The Tete Cacao moves along branches in quick movements, stopping ever so often with its head down seeming to observe the berries for which it is searching. Richard Ffrench described the call of the Bay-headed Tanager as a’ rather slow 5-note sequence, seee, see, see, tsou tsouy, the last two notes lower in pitch’ (Birds, 368). At Asa Wright, you may be fortunate to hear this melody.
This painting of the Bay-Headed Tanager was done by Don Richard Eckelberry (1921-2001), a renowned wildlife artist who played a significant role in establishing the Asa Wright Nature Centre.
– J.L. Ryan
- Hilty, S. L. 2003. Birds of Venezuela. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
- Ffrench, R. 1991 Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. Oxford:Macmillan Publishers Limited.
From a painting by Don Eckelberry