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.
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). Male tanagers can become murderous to other male tanagers and other bird small birds when in breeding condition so only one pair is recommend per flight unless the aviary is quite large.
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.
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 still.
There are several different races or subspecies of this tanager that 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 is a race issue, not a gender one. Some races are more bluish and have white shoulders and wing bars while others are more greenish and have 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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