Gardens and backyards in Costa Rica are punctuated with brilliant flowers and beautiful plants. Although the colors of most garden birds are outshone by the deep reds, purples and yellows of the garden plants, the Blue-gray Tanager always stands out. This common bird species synonymous with gardens in Costa Rica is painted with shades of blue; bluish-white on the underparts, sky-blue in the wings and tail that changes to turquoise and indigo when the sun catches the wings just right. Locals call them “Viudas” (widows) although there is nothing mournful about these cheery garden visitors you will surely see in Costa Rica.
A bit larger than a sparrow, the Blue-gray Tanager is easy to see and recognize; it is the only light blue bird likely to be seen outside forest anywhere in Costa Rica. In certain lighting, or if seen in flight, they can look whitish in coloration. Note the friendly, innocent look this bird imparts with its inquisitive dark eye on a light-colored face.
Behavior in Costa Rica
Typically found in pairs, Blue-gray Tanagers commonly take fruit placed on a feeder as well as fruit hanging from trees. They also feed on various arthropods and nest in shrubs and small trees in gardens and second growth. The song is a far cry from the beautiful plumage; a jumble of squeeky notes heard in gardens throughout Costa Rica. The non-musical vocalizations of the Blue-gray Tanager are typical of non-forest bird species. Like other birds of open habitats, the higher-pitched notes carry further in open situations.
Habitat and distribution in Costa Rica
The Blue-gray Tanager is a non-forest species adapted to second growth, parks, gardens and urban situations. It is just as often seen on the top of a house as it is in a garden. In Costa Rica this species is found from the lowlands to middle elevations (around 1,500 meters) in both dry and humid zones.