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Red-capped Cardinal

Topics: Birds of Bolivia

The Red-capped Cardinal, Paroaria gularis, is a small South American bird. It belongs to Paroaria, a genus of red-headed cardinal-tanagers in the family Thraupidae, unlike the cardinals proper which are in the Cardinalidae. They were long believed to be closer to American sparrows and placed in the Emberizidae.


The adult Red-capped Cardinal is 6.5 in (16.5 cm) long and weighs approx. 22 g. It has a crimson head, blackish lores and ocular region (reduced in P. g. cervicalis), and shiny black upperparts, apart from a white partial collar extending up the neck sides from the white underparts. The throat is black, extending to a point on the upper chest. The upper mandible is black, while the lower is pale flesh-coloured. The legs are dark grey (almost black) and the iris is brownish-orange. In pattern the juvenile resemble the adults, but the upperparts are dusky-brown, the head is deep brownish-buff (darker on the cap), the bill is entirely black and the iris is pale, dull creamy-yellow.

The song is a variable, often repeated series of suweet-chu notes, and the call is a sharp chep.


The subspecies P. g. nitrogenis from Trinidad, north-eastern Colombia and northern Venezuela differs from the remaining subspecies (P. g. gularis and P. g. cervicalis) by the black ear-coverts and the red (not black) lower throat and upper chest. Additionally, its lower mandible is typically whitish, but this is not entirely consistent, as it occasionally is pale flesh-coloured. This distinctive taxon possibly is a different species, as suggested by the lack of hybridization with P. g. gularis in the limited area of overlap in southern Venezuela. If recognized as a separate species, Paroaria nitrogenis, the common name Masked Cardinal has been suggested.

Distribution and ecology

It occurs in lowlands of Trinidad, the Guianas, Venezuela, eastern Colombia, eastern Ecuador, eastern Peru, northern and eastern Bolivia and the Amazon basin in Brazil. In Brazil it is, except for populations in the relatively open lowlands of north-eastern Roraima and along the Branco River and lower Rio Negro, apparently largely absent from the regions north of the northern bank of the Amazon River, but these regions are generally very poorly known and its presence cannot be discounted, especially in the section between the lower Rio Negro and Rio Jari (the river on the border between Para and Amapa).

This is a bird of swamps, mangrove, Varzea and other semi-open areas near water. It is generally common, and even occur in lightly wooded wet habitats in towns or cities (e.g. Manaus and Puerto Maldonado). The Red-capped Cardinal feeds on insects, rice and fruit. It is usually found in conspicuous pairs or family groups.

It is known to breed from June to September, and possibly earlier and/or later. The Red-capped Cardinal builds a shallow cup nest, some 9-10 cm wide and 7 cm high outside with a 7 cm wide by 4 cm deep cup, in a tree or some other secure spotA nest in the Cuyabeno Faunistic Reserve (Ecuador) was built in the roots of a Macrolobium sp. standing in water (Greeney & Merino M. 2006). For nest material, it uses rootlets, thin twigs, and fernsE.g. Microgramma (Greeney & Merino M. 2006) nest was lined sparsely with red-brown rootlets.

The clutch is two or three eggs. These have a background color varying between whitish and dull olive and have dense dark brown flecks and blotches, heavier at the blunt end. They measure about 21-22 by 16 mm. This species is parasitised by the Shiny Cowbird.


Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern

(1991): A guide to the birds of Trinidad and Tobago (2nd edition). Comstock Publishing, Ithaca, N.Y.. ISBN 0-8014-9792-2

(2006): Notes on breeding birds from the Cuyabeno Faunistic Reserve in northeastern Ecuador. Boletin de la Sociedad Antioquena de Ornitologia 16(2): 46-57. PDF fulltext

(2003): Birds of Venezuela. Christopher Helm, London. ISBN 0-7136-6418-5

(2006): Birds of Northern South America. Christopher Helm, London. ISBN 0-7136-7243-9 (vol. 1). ISBN 0-7136-7242-0 (vol. 2).

External links

Red-capped Cardinal videos on the Internet Bird Collection

Red-capped Cardinal photo gallery VIREO Photo-High Res

Arthur Grosset: Article w/ photos, Photo-2 of 3--Medium Res

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Red-capped Cardinal