The Greyish Saltator, Saltator coerulescens, is a seedeating bird. Traditionally placed in the cardinal family (Cardinalidae), it actually seems to be closer to the tanagers (Thraupidae). In El Salvador, it is well-known as dichoso fui after the "elaborate" version of its call, which sounds like a drawn-out ¡dichoso fui!, Spanish for "I was happy!"
Description and systematics
Singing individual, El Salvador
On average, the Greyish Saltator is 20 cm long and weighs 52 g. The plumage depends on age and subspecies, but in general this bird has grey or greyish-olive upperparts, a white stripe over the eye, a narrow white throat, a grey breast and a buff or cinnamon belly.
The common call is a long-drawn upward slur, ch'wheeet or ch'kweeee, sometimes with a more elaborate beginning, as hi'whee chu weeeeh. The song is a warble, usually fairly short, varying from nasal to mellow.
The genus Saltator is apparently polyphyletic. Whether the present species will remain in Saltator or eventually be moved to another genus remains to be seen; it appears to be rather close to the type species, the Buff-throated Saltator, and thus seems more likely than not to retain its genus name.
There are 13 subspecies, several of which are considered full species by some authors, mainly on the basis of vocalisations.
Distribution and ecology
This species occurs in Mexico, Central America and South America, from Colombia south to Peru and northern Argentina in open woodland, plains and scrub. The Greyish Saltator feeds on fruit, buds and slow-moving insects. It forages at low and middle levels, sometimes in pairs or small groups and sometimes with mixed-species flocks that may include other saltators. The two pale blue subelliptic eggs per clutch measure some 23"?31.5 mm long by about 17"?22 mm wide and weigh about 5 grams each. They look unusual for this genus as they have a circle of blackish-brown hairstreaks and dots around the blunt end. They are laid in a bulky cup nest 2"?4 m high in a tree.