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Seed Dispersal: Blue-gray Tanager

Updated: Oct 9, 2021

Blue-gray tanagers (Thraupis episcopus) Is one of the most widespread birds of the humid lowland neotropics. Its range is from southeastern Mexico to central South America. 

An estimated 51 to 98 percent of canopy and sub-canopy trees in Neotropical forests are vertebrate-dispersed. Blue-gray Tanager play an important role in seed dispersal for trees and shrubs in the tropics. They are flexible in their diet, eating a wide variety of fruit, and also foraging for arthropods. 

In the tropics, seed dispersal by animals (mostly bats and birds) is also a critical

component of plant regeneration and diversity restoration processes in disturbed areas. Flying vertebrates are attracted by isolated trees in pastures and open habitats that they use as perch or feeding roost. 

The reward to the animals is quite obvious, food, but what do the plants get out of this mutualistic relationship? Seeds removed from parent trees escape from density dependent mortality under their crowns, may colonize open habitats (succession), and/or experience directed dispersal to appropriate microsite, which allows escape from predators or enhances the establishment of seedlings.

Blue-gray Tanagers prefer semi-open habitats; they are not found in interior of closed canopy forest, but they can quickly colonize fresh clearings.  Habitat destruction due to deforestation is the primary threat to this species. 


Blue-gray Tanager (Thraupis episcopus), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA. retrieved from Neotropical  

Blue-gray Tanager, National Finch and Softbill Society website, 2007

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 

Seed Dispersal and Frugivory inTropical Ecosystems- K. E. Stoner and M. Henry

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