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male red-legged honeycreeper.
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Thraupidae
Genus: Cyanerpes
Oberholser, 1899
Type species
Certhia cyanea
Linnaeus, 1766

Four, all classed as Least Concern

The typical honeycreepers form a genus Cyanerpes of small birds in the tanager family Thraupidae. They are found in the tropical New World from Mexico south to Brazil. They occur in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, they are specialist nectar feeders with long curved bills.

The four Cyanerpes species have colourful legs, long wings and a short tail. The males are typically glossy purple-blue and the females greenish.

Taxonomy and species list

The genus Cyanerpes was introduced in 1899 by the American ornithologist Harry C. Oberholser with the red-legged honeycreeper as the type species.[1][2] The name combines the Ancient Greek kuanos meaning "dark-blue" and herpēs meaning "creeper".[3]

There are two other tanagers with honeycreeper in their common name: the green honeycreeper in the monospecific genus Chlorophanes and the golden-collared honeycreeper in the monospecific genus Iridophanes.[4] These two species are sister taxa and belong to the subfamily Hemithraupinae rather than to Dacninae with the members of Cyanerpes.[5][6]

The genus contains four species:[4]

Image Name Common name Distribution
Cyanerpes nitidus Short-billed honeycreeper Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela
Cyanerpes lucidus Shining honeycreeper Mexico to Panama and northwest Colombia
Cyanerpes caeruleus Purple honeycreeper Colombia and Venezuela south to Brazil, and on Trinidad.
Cyanerpes cyaneus Red-legged honeycreeper southern Mexico south to Peru, Bolivia and central Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, and on Cuba


A commonly repeated, yet false, belief about the various honeycreeper species is that some of them lay black eggs. This idea was first made known in the scientific community with the 1899 publication of Nehrkorn's egg catalog; Nehrkorn's claim was cited in ornithological literature for many years without verification, but by the 1940s it was established that none of the members of Cyanerpes lay such eggs.[7]


  1. ^ Oberholser, Harry C. (1899). "A synopsis of the blue honey-creepers of tropical America". Auk. 16: 31–35 [32]. doi:10.2307/4069264. JSTOR 4069264.
  2. ^ Paynter, Raymond A. Jr, ed. (1970). Check-List of Birds of the World. Vol. 13. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Museum of Comparative Zoology. p. 393.
  3. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 126. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  4. ^ a b Gill, Frank; Donsker, David; Rasmussen, Pamela, eds. (July 2020). "Tanagers and allies". IOC World Bird List Version 10.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 26 October 2020.
  5. ^ Burns, K.J.; Shultz, A.J.; Title, P.O.; Mason, N.A.; Barker, F.K.; Klicka, J.; Lanyon, S.M.; Lovette, I.J. (2014). "Phylogenetics and diversification of tanagers (Passeriformes: Thraupidae), the largest radiation of Neotropical songbirds". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 75: 41–77. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2014.02.006. PMID 24583021.
  6. ^ Burns, K.J.; Unitt, P.; Mason, N.A. (2016). "A genus-level classification of the family Thraupidae (Class Aves: Order Passeriformes)". Zootaxa. 4088 (3): 329–354. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.4088.3.2. PMID 27394344.
  7. ^ Eisenmann, Eugene (1953). "What bird lays black eggs?". Auk. 70 (3): 362–363. doi:10.2307/4081327. JSTOR 4081327.
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