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The mystery Tanager of Manu National Park


May 13, 2017

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Mystery Tanager – one of the only two photos that exist of this species – Photo: Julian Heavyside

Mystery Tanager – one of the only two photos that exist of this species – Photo: Julian Heavyside

While it is not uncommon for new species to be discovered in Amazon Rainforest, most of these discoveries are what scientists call “splits”, when what we believed was one species, turned out to be more than one. An example of this would be that two subspecies of a bird, would each be elevated to the species category.

However, it is very rare, that something completely new gets discovered. So is the case of the mystery tanager that was first seen in October of 2001 by Daniel Lane, and LSU ornithologist. This tanager has received many unofficial names, such as “San Pedro Tanager”, because it is seen near a town with that name; “Manu Tanager”, for obvious reasons; and “Kill Bill Tanager”, due to its striking yellow coloration and black eyebrow, reminiscent of a character in the Kill Bill franchise.

Drawing of the mystery Tanager, by Mathieu Waldeck

Drawing of the mystery Tanager, by Mathieu Waldeck

What is harder to believe is where this bird has been found. It is not along a remote ridge in the deepest, darkest corner of Manu National Park, but right beside the famous Manu Road, where literally dozens of birdwatchers pass along everyday. How can a bird that no one has ever seen before, be hiding in plain sight? We still don´t know, but we hope the team that is describing the species at LSU (Louisiana State University) shines some light over those questions.

Ever since its first appearance, this Tanager has been very secretive, and hardly seen, but a few people get to aim their binoculars at them. If you wish to try your luck with this species, please contact us, so you can join us in our ´Complete Manu´ Itinerary, that goes right where this enigmatic species is hiding.

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