Top 7 Most Colorful Tanagers of Colombia and Where to Find Them

Did you know that Tanagers are a very large family of birds? Yes! and you must know that many species from this family are brightly colored. Therefore, we decided to dedicate a whole post to them, however, if you want to know other colorful birds of Colombia, you can visit our entry Most Colorful Birds of Colombia and where to find them. In this post you will find the Most Colorful Tanagers of Colombia and where to find them.

First of all, I will tell you that the initial selection was not easy, many of tanagers are beautiful. Secondly, tanagers are very widely distributed along the entire American continent! Here is a preliminary list of those chosen: Scarlet-and-white Tanager, Guira Tanager, Masked Crimson Tanager, Swallow Tanager, Multicolored Tanager, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Purplish-mantled Tanager, Grass-green Tanager, Golden-hooded Tanager, Paradise Tanager, Rufous-winged Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager, Golden-eared Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Green-and-gold Tanager, Golden Tanager, Rufous-throated Tanager, Red-hooded Tanager, and White-capped Tanager.

Colombia also has important, but less colorful tanagers to speak of, belonging to the Bangsia genus. We will talk about these in another post, stay tuned!

In this entry I will focus on Tanagers with reduced distribution, and/or exclusive to Colombia.

Multicolored Tanager: The Queen of the Most Colored Tanagers

Chlorochrysa nitidissima

This bird has an incredible color pattern: electric cerulean chest and flanks, black belly, green nape and wings, cream colored back, golden face and throat, and brown-black ear patch.

Endemic to the forests of the central and western mountain ranges of the Colombian Andes, it is classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is the symbol of the IBA “Bosque de Niebla San Antonio – km 18“, in the department of Valle del Cauca. There you can easily photograph this bird at La Minga Ecolodge.

Flame-faced Tanager 

Tangara parzudakii

Among the most colorful tanagers, you cannot miss this one. Know that this bird has unmistakable colors with a bright red-orange face, which turns yellow on the crown and nape. Also, it has a black patch on its ears, and its back is black. Its underparts and wing covert patch are opalescent greenish and the rump is reddish.

Depending on its geographical location in some places it shows individuals with bright red on the face, while in other places they may look more orangish.

Yes, I know you can say “but this bird is widely distributed among Colombia, Ecuador y Perú!” But I also can tell you that it is still an eye-catching attraction when you are in a birding tour in Colombia. You can find it around the whole Andean region of Colombia, in altitudes between 1000 and 2500 m.

Golden-eared Tanager

Tangara chrysotis

This colorful bird moves on top of the trees, however it visits low troughs from where its colors can be appreciated. It is blue-green with an orange face, coppery belly and contrasting black patches on its head and back.

You can find this bird in the departments of Huila and Caquetá, in the south of Colombia. It is very easy to photograph in the El Encanto Nature Reserve and in the Mirador de las Tangaras on the old road to Florencia, capital of Caquetá.

Scarlet-and-white Tanager

Chrysothlypis salmoni

You must know this Tanager is rare, like, difficult to find. You can find it only by visiting the lowland and foothill rainforests of western Colombia, throughout the Pacific region, which also corresponds to the Biogeographic Chocó forest.

The male has a spectacular coloration, which makes him different from any other South American bird. It has a bright red plumage with white flanks and slightly darker wings.

You can watch this bird when you visit the old road to Buenaventura, better known as Anchicayá, in the department of Valle del Cauca. Also at Las Bangsias Reserve in the department of Nariño.

Rufous-throated Tanager

Ixothraupis rufigula

All the species of the genus Ixothraupis have a very particular plumage, presenting very vivid colors of greens, blues, whites and yellows, but they become weird by the black spots in the midle of their feathers, which make them look with scales, as a fish… Among them, the Rufous-throated Tanager differenciates the most.

Birds in colombia
Birds in colombia

The Rufous-throated Tanager has a set of colors, which makes those Ixothraupis scales look less trippy. This Tanager may appear as of sober plumage, however when you see it in the sun it is spectacular. It has a mostly black head, and a very striking orange throat. Its neck, back and scapulas are dark with a flaky appearance, as well as the contrasting black spots on its breast and flanks over the white of its belly.

You will find this tanager throughout the Pacific region of Colombia, which also corresponds to the Biogeographic Chocó forest. You can photograph it when you visit Anchicayá in the department of Valle del Cauca. Also in the department of Nariño at Las Bangsias Reserve.

Purplish-mantled Tanager

Iridosornis porphyrocephalus

This tanager is almost completely blue. However, the truth is that its plumage represents almost every shade of blue, from a brighter dark blue on the head, to a paler cerulean blue towards the tail. And, to complete its beauty, it has a bright lemon-yellow throat.

It is difficult to find the most beautiful among all the species of the Iridosornis genus. Firstable, what can you expect from a genus called Iridosornis which means rainbow bird? I found Iridosornis is a word derived from the Greek roots “iris = rainbow” and “ornis = bird“. Second, they all look alike and have the same range of colors: all blues, yellow, black and a little bit of rufus.

I decided that Purplish-mantled Tanager and Golden-crowned Tanager (Iridosornis rufivertex) are the most beautiful in this genus. And you can find them in Colombia. You can observe the Purplish-mantled Tanager in southern Colombia, and it is especially easy to see in the department of Putumayo.

On the other hand, the Golden-crowned Tanager can be found all over the Andean region of Colombia, the luck is to find it, but in places like the national natural park Los Nevados in the coffee axis, or the national natural park Chingaza, near Bogotá, you can get easy records.

Golden-crowned Tanager is rare to see, its color is mostly dark cobalt blue with a black head and a bright yellow cap. Its under tail coverts are reddish, which differentiates it from the rest of the birds of this genus.

Rufous-winged tanager

Tangara lavinia

This tanager is mostly green. The male is deep emerald green with a yellow back and neck. The head and wings are mostly ferruginous and the belly is bright sky blue.

You can find this tanager throughout the Pacific region of Colombia, which also corresponds to the Biogeographic Chocó forest. Also, the best places to photograph this bird are Anchicayá in the department of Valle del Cauca, and Apía in the department of Risaralda.


References

  • The Internet Bird Collection IBC
  • The Macaulay Library

About the author

Sara Colmenares

Current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism – environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.