Fundación ProAves – por la conservación en el país de las aves

New Mountain-Tanager discovered in Colombia

27 May, 2011


Thursday 18 March 2010.

A brightly colored, new subspecies of Mountain-Tanager has been discovered in Colombia. It was first found in the Serranía de los Yariguíes mountains, near ProAves’ Cerulean Warbler Bird Reserve in 2005.

However, it was not until this week that the scientific paper formally describing the new subspecies was published. The new tanager is a subspecies of the Lachrymose Mountain-Tanager, and has been given the scientific name Anisognathus lacrymosus yariguierum. It was discovered and described by ProAves Council member Thomas Donegan and Jorge Enrique Avendaño, who found it during biological explorations of the Yariguíes mountains supported by ProAves. The description was formally published last week in the scientific journal Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club

Photo: Lachrymose Mountain Tanager Anisognathus lacrymosus yariguierum: a new subspecies discovered in Colombia. © B. Huertas / Proyecto EBA.

The new subspecies is a handsome bird, with bright yellow underparts, bluish wings and ’tears’ below its eye. It differs strikingly from other populations in Colombia’s East Andes in its darker upperparts and crown. The name yariguierum refers to the Yariguies mountain range where the species is found, which is itself named for an indigenous group who perished during the Spanish colonial period.

The discovery of any new bird taxon is exciting for ornithologists, but the discovery of a new tanager is of special significance. Tanagers are among the most brightly colored, beautiful, conspicuous and popular groups of birds in the world. As a result, they were frequently a target of bird collectors in the 1800s and most of them were described and discovered over a century ago. New bird species and subspecies in cryptic families like tapaculos and antpittas are still found today, but it is surprising that ornithologists might find a new tanager in the year 2010.

This particular population had gone unnoticed as it is restricted to isolated and virtually inaccessible paramos in the Yariguies range, above 2900 m elevation, and stunted vegetation along steep slopes above 2450 m. It was first found on the ridge of the Yariguies range in an area only accessible by helicopter. The last time that a new tanager subspecies was described was over 15 years ago in 1994, when Aveledo and Perez published details of a population of the Beryl-spangled Tanager from the coastal mountains of Venezuela as Tangara nigroviridis lozanoana. However, there has not been a fieldwork-based discovery in this group since the 1980s.

This is the fifth new bird subspecies described from expeditions in the Yariguies mountains. Also, in butterflies, two new species have been described by Blanca Huertas and colleagues. A large number of endangered bird species are also found in the Yariguíes mountains, including Gorgeted Wood-Quail and Mountain Grackle. As a result of the expeditions and fieldwork supported by ProAves, the Yariguíes mountains were declared a 78,837 ha National Park in 2005 and ProAves established two private nature reserves totalling 2081 ha adjacent to the National Park to protect these and other species.

Thomas Donegan is a member of Fundación ProAves Council and Jorge Enrique Avendaño was formerly an undergraduate student at Universidad Industrial de Santander and is presently studying in the Universidad de Los Andes in Bogota supported by a Giles Scholarship from Fundación ProAves.


Anisognathus lacrymosus yarigiuerum was discovered on the Fundación ProAves “EBA Project” and “YARÉ Project” expeditions to Serranía de los Yariguíes. These initiatives were supported by Royal Geographical Society, BP Conservation Programme (BirdLife International, Conservation International, Flora Fauna International, Wildlife Conservation Society), Duke of Edinburgh, Fondo para Acción Ambiental, Conservation International Colombia (Becas Iniciativa de Especies Amenazadas-Jorge Ignacio “El Mono” Hernández-Camacho), the Percy Sladen Memorial Fund (Linnean Society), Tropical Andean Butterfly Diversity Project, Game Conservancy Trust, World Pheasant Association, Corporación Autónoma Regional de Santander, Mayoralties of San Vicente de Chucurí, Galan and El Carmen, Universidad Industrial de Santander, Universidad de Caldas, Universidad de Tolima and Gobernación de Santander. Other expedition participants included: Colombian and British biologists and students Blanca Huertas, Elkin Briceño, John Jairo Arias, Cristóbal Ríos, Laura Rosado, Diana Villanueva, Diana Montealegre, Clare Turner, Martin Donegan and local guide José Pinto. Later expeditions to Yariguíes were supported by the Robert Giles Scholarship of Fundación ProAves, The Explores Club, Fundación Alejandro Ángel Escobar and the Faculty of Sciences of Universidad de los Andes.

Contact details for further information:

Thomas Donegan

Jorge Avendaño


EBA Project report for Serranía de los Yariguíes PDF

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