Jump Up and Down Bird

TIZIU, Blue-black Grassquit, Volatinia jacarin...

Image via Wikipedia

When the dry season arrives, I start listening for what I call the Jump Up and Down Bird. The bird’s call is a quick wheeze, repeated over and over, described in Birds of Panama* as an “…explosive buzzy dzee-eq.”

Once I hear the bird I drop everything, if I can, and rush toward the trees where it is likely to be found. Then I stand still, listen, and follow the sound with my eyes until I can see the bird. It’s not long, then, before I see the display.

This bird jumps straight up into the air and then lands back on the branch where it started.

You can watch many more videos at the Internet Bird Collection.

Although its appearance is not as spectacular as many of the exotic tropical birds around here, the habitat and behavior make it easy to identify. It’s the Blue-black Grassquit, Volatinia jacarina. In Panama, it is common in grassy areas in the lowlands and ranges up to 1500 m. Birds of Panama* notes:

One of the most frequently observed birds in open areas in the lowlands. Males often perch on top of a bush or grass stem and repeatedly come out with an explosive buzzy dzee-eq, at the same time jumping a foot or so into the air (sometimes almost seeming to somersault), then dropping back to its original perch. They sometimes call without jumping.

The Volatinia jacarina is a tanager and is the only member of its genus. It breeds from Mexico through most of South America.

Blue-Black Grassquit Dist

This little bird is one of my favorite sights on the savanna. For the past week, I’ve been dropping everything and listening and watching for as long as it chooses to entertain me.

*Ridgely, R.S. and J.A. Gwynne, Jr. 1989. A Guide to the Birds of Panama with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras. 2nd edition. Princeton University Press

About Mary

I spent a few years at sea, and I never came back from a cruise without having learned something new about the ocean or what lived in it. After retiring to Panama, I began to learn something new about the tropical savanna ecosystem nearly every day I stepped outside. I focused on plants, those marvelous signs of life. Now I'm in my second retirement, living in Sicily. I'm leaving my plant studies online for those who have found them useful.
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8 Responses to Jump Up and Down Bird

  1. Francis says:

    Very interesting. I just learned something new. thank you. 🙂

  2. norm says:

    hi mary…
    thanks for the article on the jump up and down bird (judb : ). i was standing by the back yard fence the other day and was pleased to see a judb that i probably wouldn’t have noticed if it hadn’t been for you. guess i’m getting an eye for them cuz i’m seeing more and more of then even tho they aren’t very conspicuous and their canción isn’t very loud.

    norm : ))~

    • Mary says:

      Hi Norm, and thanks. These birds seem to disappear in the rainy season – or maybe they’re there but don’t jump up and down, or sing. Anyway, I agree that once you get an eye for them (or an ear) you suddenly see and hear more of them. Their song may not be loud but it’s very distinctive, isn’t it? Nice to hear from you, Norm.

  3. Jennifer T says:

    Is it possible for them to be in the northeast United states??

    • Mary says:

      I doubt it, Jennifer. The northeastern United States is a long, long way from where these birds like to be. Maybe some local birders could help you identify what you have seen. Good luck!

  4. K S Gorman says:

    Pretty sure we have one of these in Mesa, AZ – Possible?

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