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The Orange-throated Tanager: A Jewel of South American Birding


A spectacular creature with a fiery-orange throat and brilliant indigo wings rests in the canopy of southeast Ecuador’s humid forest. The resident is the aptly named orange-throated tanager, a crown jewel of South American birding. Though spotting this tanager is a complicated endeavor, requiring patience, time and a little luck, the stunningly beautiful species is unmistakable, even if only seen at a distance.

The orange-throated tanager is restricted to the humid forests of northernmost Peru and extreme southeast Ecuador. This rare species was first described to science in the mid-1960s after a collecting expedition to the remote reaches of northeast Peru. It was not until 1990 that the orange-throated tanager was discovered in Ecuador in the Nangaritza Valley. 

Orange-throated tanager by Nick Athanas
Orange-throated tanagers are usually found in small flocks, sometimes with other species. 

Photography: Nick Athanas. CC BY-SA 2.0

Orange-throated tanagers play a key role in a healthy, well-balanced environment, consuming insects such as beetles and promoting forest growth through seed dispersal. However, these bright beauties are threatened by deforestation. Listed as vulnerable due to their very limited range and declining habitat, the species is suspected to lose approximately 6% of its habitat over the next decade, based on a model of Amazonian deforestation.

Help build a better world for the orange-throated tanager and all birds by supporting Nature and Culture.

Nangaritza Valley in Ecuador.

Nature and Culture International is currently working to protect the lush foothill rainforests of the Nangaritza Valley. Nangaritza is an incredibly unique ecosystem, home to the charismatic spectacled bear, rare orange-throated tanager, among thousands of other species, and connects some of the largest blocks of intact forest that remain in southern Ecuador.

We are collaborating with the government and local communities to create protected areas and develop sustainable industries. Our main allies in this quest are the indigenous Shuar communities that have lived in the Nangaritza Valley for generations.

Nature and Culture conservationists in the Maycú Reserve.

Photography: Matt Clark

Nature and Culture is also actively purchasing land in the cloud forests of Nangaritza to create a protected corridor between the Andes mountains and Amazon lowlands. Through the help of World Land Trust and generous donors, we have established the 2,250-acre Maycú Reserve that protects the rare orange-throated tanager’s only habitat in Ecuador.

Learn more about our critical work in the Nangaritza Valley here.