Sunday Inspiration – Thraupidae – Flowerpiercers, Sierra Finches, Plus

Glossy Flowerpiercer (Diglossa lafresnayii) ©WikiC

The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. (Isaiah 40:8 KJV)

Starting off this weeks avian wonders from the Thraupidae Family, these perfectly created “flowerpiercers are the members of two genera of tanagers, Diglossa and Diglossopis. The latter genus is sometimes subsumed into the former, but at present most authorities maintain them as separate. Based on mtDNA, the indigo flowerpiercer, which traditionally has been placed in Diglossopis, actually belongs in Diglossa. The common name refers to their habit of piercing the base of flowers to access nectar that otherwise would be out of reach. This is done with their highly modified bills [created by their creator], although this is greatly reduced in the bluish flowerpiercer, which has an almost “normal” bill. Most flowerpiercers are restricted to highlands, especially the Andes, in South America, but two species occur in Central America.” (Wikipedia)

Red Pileated Finch (Coryphospingus cucullatus) ©WikiC

Red Pileated Finch (Coryphospingus cucullatus) ©WikiC

There are eight species in between the Flowerpiercers and the Sierra Finches. These are in six different genera. All of these are songbirds that live in South America. They are considered incertae sedis which means in Latin that they are of uncertain placement. So they just sort of placed them together until they figure out were to place them.

Peruvian Sierra Finch (Phrygilus punensis) ©WikiC

Peruvian Sierra Finch (Phrygilus punensis) ©WikiC

Phrygilus is a genus of mainly Andean seed-eating tanagers commonly known as sierra finches. Phrygilos means finch in Ancient Greek. Sometimes classified in the bunting and American sparrow family Emberizidae, more recent studies have shown them to belong in the Thraupidae. The genus appears to be polyphyletic consisting of at least three distinct lineages which in future may need to be split into separate genera.

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“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 KJV)

“Your Grace is Sufficient” ~ Special by Courtney Love – Flute

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More Sunday Inspirations

Sunday Inspiration – Thraupidae – Tanagers and Allies I

Sunday Inspiration – Thraupidae – Tanagers and Allies II

Sunday Inspiration – Thraupidae – Tanagers and Allies III

Sunday Inspiration – Thraupidae – Tanagers and Allies IV

Sunday Inspiration – Thraupidae – Dacnis, Honeycreepers, Conebills

Traupidae Family – Tanagers and Allies

Sharing The Gospel

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Slaty Flowerpiercers (and Hummingbirds)

Slaty Flowerpiercer (Diglossa plumbea) by Ian

Slaty Flowerpiercer (Diglossa plumbea) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Slaty Flowerpiercers (and Hummingbirds) ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 12/02/10

Last week’s hummingbirds were popular so here, in a roundabout way, are some more. Flowers often have complex relationships with the animals (eg birds, moths) with which they interact and use them for pollination and distribution of seeds. Mutually beneficial (symbiotic) relationships may develop, such as exchange of nectar for pollination, that result in structural correspondences between species of flowers and animals, in particular the length of flower tubes and the length of the bills of hummingbirds and the probosces of months.

Slaty Flowerpiercer (Diglossa plumbea) by Ian

Slaty Flowerpiercer (Diglossa plumbea) by Ian

These relationships may exclude other species and this leads to cheating in various ways, either directly or indirectly. Flowerpiercers, such as the Slaty Flowerpiercer found in Costa Rica and named after the male of the species, first photo, cheat by using their specially adapted bills to bite through the flower tube to get at the nectar without helping with pollination. The female in the second photo shows how its done with the flower of a ginger plant.

Volcano Hummingbird (Selasphorus flammula) by Ian

Volcano Hummingbird (Selasphorus flammula) by Ian

Some short-billed Hummingbirds do the same thing and stab the flower tube. Others, however, cheat indirectly and take advantage of the holes left by the flowerpiercers to sip the nectar. The tiny male Volcano Hummingbird (8cm/3.1in 2.5g) in the third photo is doing just that. Totally dwarfed by the ginger flower, it is hovering nearby and hasn’t had to land on the flower to stab it. The Volcano Hummingbird, incidentally, is a very close relative of the Scintillant Hummingbird of last week but has a violet rather than an orange gorget and is found, as its name suggests, at much higher altitudes. The vertical ranges of the two species just overlap at the 2,200m/7,200ft altitude of San Gerardo de Dota, the valley of the Quetzals.

White-throated Mountaingem (Lampornis castaneoventris) by Ian

White-throated Mountaingem (Lampornis castaneoventris) by Ian

The much larger male White-throated Mountain-gem (11cm/4in 6.2g) in the fourth photo has actually landed on the ginger flower, so whether it has stabbed the flower or is also taking advantage of the Flowerpiercers isn’t obvious. They’re clearly versatile: the fifth photo shows another male feeding on an alien, almost petal-less, Bottlebrush in San Gerardo de Dota, the closest one is likely to get to an Australian Hummingbird!

White-throated Mountaingem (Lampornis castaneoventris) by Ian

White-throated Mountaingem (Lampornis castaneoventris) by Ian

Links:
Flowerpiercers (members of the Tanager family)
Volcano Hummingbird
White-throated Mountain-gem

On the website, I’m getting towards the end of adding Costa Rican birds and have added quite a variety. You might like to check out Recent Additions: http://www.birdway.com.au/index.htm#updates .

Best wishes,
Ian


Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au


Lee’s Addition:

Now, Ian, how did you know I was just reading about the Flowerpiercers this week? Thanks for the beautiful photos and article about these birds.

Could it be that the flowerpiercers are not cheating, but just doing as they were designed to do. By poking those holes they are not only getting a drink but allowing the little guys to have access also to a meal of nectar. Such forethought!

All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:3 KJV)

While working on the Hummingbird and the Tanager pages, the Flowerpiercer again caught my eye like the Sword-billed Hummingbird had from Michael Woodruff photos. If too many of the hummers had those long beaks, there would be a lot of sore necks. So by having the flowerpiercers pierce a hole nearer to the nectar, there are many hummers that get to have shorter beaks and less neck aches!

The common name refers to their habit of piercing the base of flowers to access nectar that otherwise would be out of reach. This is done with their highly modified bills, although this is greatly reduced in the Bluish Flowerpiercer, which has an almost “normal” bill. Most flowerpiercers are restricted to highlands, especially the Andes, in South America, but two species occur in Central America.

There are 18 flowerpiercers in the Diglossa genus in the Tanagers & Allies – Thraupidae Family of the Passeriformes Order.

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