18 August 2009

Bahamian Bird Tuesday

In honor of this being my 692nd post and it being Tuesday (and because I can) I hereby declare today to be Bahamian Bird Tuesday.

This is a male Western Spindalis, known in birding circles as Spindalis zena. It's a large (16.5cm), forest-dwelling bird and there's some heated debate among birders and taxonomists over whether it should be classified as a tanager or a finch. I side with the tanager partisans on this one, though that is not a popular view.

Despite the hoopla surrounding its classification, there are few thrills to compare with seeing one of these guys alight on the branch of a Gumbo Limbo tree while you're enjoying a quiet cup of coffee as the sun comes up.


  1. Paul, you're back!! I hope you had a great vacation :-)

    I need to do some serious catching up here.... starting with Bahamian Bird Tuesday :-) Very cool looking bird -- I might have to include him in one of my upcoming posts :-)

    What's the difference between a tanager and a finch??


  2. Hey Kelly! I'm seriously behind in my catching up too. As I understand it, the difference is a matter of body type, specifically their beaks. Melody's bird authority around here though and hopefully she'll weigh in on this.

  3. Now that's an impressive bird. If I were going on looks alone, which is pretty much an 18th century method of classification, I'd say it's more related to a tanager.
    Kelly, finches are seed-eaters and have conical bills adapted for cracking seeds. They are classified in the family Fringillidae.
    Tanagers are a "diverse group difficult to categorize" according to Sibley's guide, but most,if not all, eat insects and fruits. They're larger than finches and have a stout pointed bill. Most are very brightly colored.


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