Golden Tanager


(Also see Honeycreepers)

Beautiful Popular Small Softbills

Tanagers have been staples in softbill aviculture for decades and are still just as popular, if not more so. The majority of tanager species are beautifully colored.  Tanagers range from those that are hardy enough to be considered beginner’s softbills, like the Blue-Grey Tanager, to the delicate and very   expensive, such as the Paradise Tanager.   Tanagers range in size from the small honeycreepers and euphonias to the large thrush-tanagers.

A wide range of tanager species have been imported over the decades, and many aviculturists are successful in breeding them.   Several tanager species are   sexually   dimorphic   which   helps   greatly   in   establishing true pairs.

Violaceous Euphonia Pair (female left)

Housing Tanagers

Tanagers are very active, flitting about constantly so enclosures need to be large enough for them to move about.  The smaller sized tanagers can be housed in cockatiel and larger cages, or in aviaries (indoor or out).  Unfortunately male tanagers can become murderous to other male tanagers of any species, and even other small birds, when in breeding condition so only one tanager pair is recommended per flight unless the aviary is quite large.

Breeding Tanagers

Once established, tanagers can be bred in captivity.  Most tanagers are monomorphic and need to be DNA sexed.  The males typically become aggressive, even to the hen, and do lots of chasing and displays.  Tanagers use open and closed nest baskets, and sometimes the larger species will use parakeet nestboxes.  In aviary situations they may make their own nest.  Lots of clean livefood is needed to ensure successful clutches. Chicks are easily susceptible to yeast and bacterial infections.

Blue Grey Tanager

Blue Grey Tanagers

One of the most commonly available and beautiful of the tanagers is the Blue Grey Tanager.  It is one of the larger species but more mild mannered than most, even when breeding.  We have had no aggression problems breeding this species in mixed species aviaries.  However male Blue Grey Tanagers need to be housed separately from each other still.

There are several different races or subspecies of this tanager, and they have varied body and wing coloration.  Some people are not aware of the different races and think the birds are sexually dimorphic.  However this is incorrect; coloration differences are a race issue, not a gender one.  Some races are more bluish with white shoulders and wing bars while others are more greenish with light bluish shoulders.  Breeders should try to match races when setting up pairs to avoid hybridizing.

 Tanagers at the Davis Lund Aviaries

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Copyright 07/09  Kateri Davis