Cover image for Life of the tanager
Life of the tanager
Skutch, Alexander F. (Alexander Frank), 1904-2004.
Publication Information:
Ithaca : Comstock, 1989.
Physical Description:
xii, 114 pages, 24 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 32 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Subject Term:
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QL696.P282 S58 1989 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize

On Order



Alexander F. Skutch has spent more than 40 years studying Neotropical birds, mostly in southern Costa Rica, where he makes his home. In this charming book he observes the habits of the tanagers, a family of some 230 species of brightly colored, predominantly fruit-eating birds of the New World.Skutch describes many of the unusual things he has seen tanagers do, and details their behavior: how they forage and feed, vocalize, interact with one another, court, and breed. He tells how they nest, care for their young, and defend against predators, and shows them in such daily activities as grooming and sleeping. His final chapter is devoted to the present status of tanagers in relation to humans and the destruction of their physical environment. Dana Gardener has provided 19 black-and-white drawings of various species, and a set of 24 of his watercolors illustrate the brilliant colors of the birds and of the tropical vegetation they inhabit..Written in Skutch's inimitable style, Life of the Tanager conveys eloquently his views on conservation, ecology, and evolution. It is sound natural history, sprinkled with a unique blend of personal observation and theoretical reflection. It will be treasured by both amateur birders and professionals.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

The definitive work on tanagers is M.L. and P.R. Isler's The Tanagers (CH, Feb '88), which is blessed with an abundance of color plates, maps, and 242 species accounts. This being the case, is there a need for Life of the Tanager? Most definitely. The Islers' fine book consists almost entirely of species accounts with color paintings in the diagrammatic field-guide style. Skutch's excellent book is of a different genre. This is a book to read, with an engaging narrative style and many anecdotes and interesting observations. Skutch, who has spent most of the past 50 years living in the Neotropics, is one of the world's most prolific ornithological writers. His chapters here deal with the tanager family, food/foraging, voice, daily life, displays/disputes, temperament, courtship/nests, eggs/incubation, nestlings/care, helpers, enemies/nesting success/longevity, and tanagers and man. But the book is worth its price just for Dana Gardner's 24 exquisite color plates and 19 black-and-white drawings, each of one or two tanagers in situ in the midst of spectacular (but unfortunately unidentified) vegetation. Although this is primarily a book to enjoy, it is fully indexed and referenced with several technical tables. A fine production in all respects. -H. T. Armistead, Thomas Jefferson University