The 328 species of hummingbirds form an entirely New World family. They have always fascinated humans. Mayans told how they were the scraps left after other birds were created. Watching them defend their territories, the Aztecs declared them warriors in bird form, back on earth after dying in battle and serving the Sun for four years. Observing their nests, Taroscans said hummingbirds taught them basket-weaving, while some Andean tribes consider them symbols of the Resurrection, as they awake from their unique torpor in cold temperatures. Some of the more visible hummingbirds at the DWA are: Sparkling violetear (Colibri coruscans), Green mango (Anthracocothorax viridis), Green-throated Carib (Eulampis holosericeus), Puerto Rican emerald (Chlorostilbon maugaeus) and the Giant hummingbird (Patagona gigas).
Despite their name, the several species of fruitcrows are not related to crows at all, though they do eat many kinds of fruit, which they gather both while in flight and perching in trees. Like many other members of the cotinga family, the males have a distinctive display, courting the all black females by flaring out their brilliant throat feathers (which can appear bright red), shaking their tails back and forth and making piercing calls. A relative of the Cock-of-the-rock, this species has only rarely been kept in captivity, despite being found over a vast area of South America, as well as Costa Rica and Panama. It was not bred in a zoo until 2006, when the Wuppertal Zoo in Germany was successful.
Honeycreepers are tanagers adapted to drinking nectar, and are sometimes mistaken for hummingbirds due to their slender beaks and continual busyness. Found from Mexico to Southern Brazil, for decades this species has been popular in zoos and private aviaries where they have been bred for more than 60 years. Unusual among tanagers, males molt out their brilliant blue and black pattern for part of the year, resembling the streaky green females. Both have bright yellow feathers concealed under their wings that are visible when in flight.
The nine species of Dacnis are specialized small tanagers that hunt for insects, eat berries and drink nectar. While some of them are rare, the Blue dacnis has an enormous distribution across South America, as well as southern Central America. It is a common species in zoos, and has been known as cage bird for more than a hundred years. While only the males have the bright blue and black pattern, females are also brilliantly colored, in bright greens and blues.
With 27 species, the Euphonias comprise another very large genus of Tropical American Birds. They are found from the Mexican State of Sonora, down to Argentina and Bolivia, as well as a number of Caribbean islands. The DWA has exhibited several species. Long considered tanagers, they have been recently reclassified as finches. This species, found over a large area of eastern South America, has been a popular bird in private collections and zoos since the Victorian era. It has bred at the DWA.
This is one of the more widely distributed of the Tangara tanagers, found from Costa Rica south through a large area of South America, including parts of the Andes, Amazonia and Eastern Brazil. It has been an admired cage bird for at least a century, and is one of the more common tanagers in zoos, where it has been bred.
There are at least 47 species of small, jewel-like tanagers in the genus Tangara, making this the largest genus of purely Tropical American birds. The DWA displays more than a dozen, probably the most extensive public exhibit. They are particularly concentrated along the Andes, as is this species, which is found from Venezuela to Bolivia. Although now seldom seen in zoos, it has bred repeatedly in captivity since the 1950s.
Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) invented the scientific names we use today. Many of his names were given to dead specimens in European museums, or pictures in books, so the information he had was sometimes incorrect. The laws of nomenclature do not allow for corrections. Thus, even though this large finch actually comes from Panama and Northern South America, the “Canadian” name that Linneaus gave it in in 1766 is still used. A relative of the Cardinal, Rose-breasted grosbeak, and Painted and Indigo buntings, it has always been rare in captivity.
The 216 species of woodpeckers are found across the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa, of which 109 live in Mexico, Central, and South America, and the Caribbean. They are important components of the tropical American ecosystem, as other birds, such as trogons, use the nests they excavate in trees. True to their name, their skulls, beaks and tongues are uniquely adapted to extracting insects from trees. Tropical American woodpeckers are uncommon in zoos, but the DWA has done well with four species: Red-crowned woodpecker (Melanerpes rubricapillus), Puerto Rican woodpecker (Melanerpes portoricensis), Panamanian acorn woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus striatipectus) and the Golden-naped woodpecker (Melanerpes chrysauchen).