This is an interesting shot of a Flame-colored Tanager with I think an interesting story attached.
Carey and I were working our way down the high road behind Savegre Lodge in Costa Rica when we heard a Flame-colored Tanager calling. A moment later he flew past us into a tall tree with what appears to me to be a kind of blackberry.
He gulped down a couple of pieces of fruit then immediately flipped upside down and into the position that appears in the shot. Now to me at the time it was not any kind of behavior that seemed odd or out of place.What became increasingly odd though was this bird then remained in this position for almost ten minutes. It hardly moved at all. No wing movement, no shifting of position. In fact the only movement we could see was the head. He just looked around but only in a slow casual way. Not the darting nervous active way one is used to seeing in Passerines. He seemed alert and awake, bright eyed if you will. As the minutes ticked by along with the fact that he seemed unconcerned with my slow approach we began to sense that his was unusual behavior indeed.
We speculated about possible reasons for this stillness. Perhaps a snake had him and he was in shock. I thought that maybe his behavior was the result of fermented fruit. He seemed too awake for that and he just didn't seem to be acting silly. I assume that birds can act the fool with too much to drink. Perhaps I antromorphise a bit there but I was casting about for some reasonable explaination. He obviously is in good condition so no diease or old age could explain it.
Just when we were wondering what to do about it or even if we should he got up and flew to a nearby branch. He preened his wing feathers for a bit and lit out for parts unknown.
Later as I was thinking about it I recalled having read somewhere that some birds will allow certain species of ants to clean parasites. This would explain his holding perfectly still for so long. Sort of like how fish will go to cleaning stations and allow cleaner fish and prawn have at it.
I'm not sure I can remember just where I heard this bit of information. Perhaps, and I would not at all be surprised, my brain cobbled together fragments of Attenbouroghs " The Life of Birds" and some of the other more disreputable programs that pass these days as nature programs.
What ever the reason it was fascinating behavior to watch and the bird while beautiful pleased me even more by obliging my efforts to photograph him. Always a bonus.
I would welcome any thoughts on possible reasons for this remarkable behaviour.
Bryan Pollock April 4/11