Violaceous Euphonia

(Euphonia violacea)

FUN FACT

The Violaceous Euphonia is a primary seed disperser for mistletoe.

Once considered to be a member of the Tanager family (Thraupidae), the Violaceous Euphonia is now thought to be more closely related to the True Finches (Fringillidae) based on molecular-genetic analysis.  No doubt its original classification was influenced by the Euphonia's tanager-bright colors and quick, aerobatic antics.

Male Violaceous Euphonia have an orange-yellow forehead, throat, and breast, with the rest of their upper parts and wings a shimmering blue-black.  Females are somewhat duller, olive-green with only a slightly yellowish forehead and olive-yellow underparts.  The Euphonia's bill is black, and relatively heavy for the bird's size (only about 15g).  This is perfect for plucking and smashing the small, soft berries which comprise most of the Euphonia's diet, and for taking delicate bites out of larger fleshy fruits.  Its tiny size also allows the Euphonia to climb all over flower inflourescences to extract nectar from the blossoms, coincidentally coating itself with pollen in the process and thus assisting in the plant's reproduction.

The Violaceous Euphonia's digestive tract is specialized for processing soft fruit pulp, being little more than a tube with a slight thickening along its length instead of a stomach.  It cannot, however, digest anything much harder.  The Euphonia is thus able to eat a wide range of berries whose seeds would otherwise be toxic if ingested.  Potentially dangerous seeds pass quickly through the Euphonia's system and are deposited (along with a convenient dollop of fertilizer) where they can sprout and grow.  In this way, the Euphonia is an important part of re-seeding areas cleared by fire or human activity.

 

Distribution

Southeast Venezuela and Trinidad, also Eastern Brazil.

Habitat

Humid forest and forest borders, shrubby clearings, orchards, and parks.

Diet

Almost exclusively fruit, with some bugs and nectar when seasonally available.

Breeding

Builds a globular nest with a small side entrance. Both sexes bring materials, but the female does most of the construction. Female incubates four eggs for 17-18 days. Both parents feed offspring, but it takes 17-24 days before chicks fledge due to the relatively low protein content in their fruit-rich diet.

Status

Not Under Threat (Least Concern)

At the Aviary

Visit the Violaceous Euphonia in The Canary's Call.