World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0000261376
Reproduction Date:

Title: Tanager  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Piranga, Cardinal (bird), Honeycreepers, Black-throated euphonia, Chlorothraupis
Collection: Tanagers, Thraupidae
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Green-headed tanager, Tangara seledon
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Suborder: Passeri
Family: Thraupidae
Cabanis, 1847

many: see text

The tanagers (singular ) comprise the bird family Thraupidae, in the order Passeriformes. The family has an American distribution. The Thraupidae are the second-largest family of birds and represent about 4% of all avian species and 12% of the Neotropical birds.[1] Traditionally, about 240 species of tanagers were described, but the taxonomic treatment of this family's members is currently in a state of flux. As more of these birds are studied using modern molecular techniques, some genera are expected to be relocated elsewhere. Already, species in the genera Euphonia and Chlorophonia, which were once considered part of the tanager family, are now treated as members of Fringillidae, in their own subfamily (Euphoniinae). Likewise, the genera Piranga (which includes the scarlet tanager, summer tanager, and western tanager), Chlorothraupis, and Habia appear to be members of the cardinal family,[2] and have been reassigned to that family by the AOU.


  • Description 1
  • Distribution 2
  • Behaviour 3
    • Diet 3.1
    • Reproduction 3.2
  • Systematics 4
    • Group 1 4.1
    • Group 2 4.2
    • Group 3 4.3
    • Thraupidae incertae sedis 4.4
    • Recently split from Thraupidae 4.5
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Tanagers are small to medium-sized birds. The shortest-bodied species, the white-eared conebill, is 9 cm (3.8 in) long and weighs 7 grams, barely smaller than the short-billed honeycreeper. The longest, the magpie tanager is 28 cm (11 in) and weighs 76 grams (2.7 oz). The heaviest is the white-capped tanager which weighs 114 grams (4 oz) and measures about 24 cm (9.5 in). Both sexes are usually the same size and weight. Tanagers are often brightly colored, but some species are black and white. Birds in their first year are often duller or a different color altogether. Males are typically more brightly colored than females. Most tanagers have short, rounded wings. The shape of the bill seems to be linked to the species' foraging habits.


Tanagers are restricted to the New World and mainly to the tropics. About 60% of tanagers live in South America, and 30% of these species live in the Andes. Most species are endemic to a relatively small area.


Most tanagers live in pairs or in small groups of three to five individuals. These groups may consist simply of parents and their offspring. Birds may also be seen in single-species or mixed flocks. Many tanagers are thought to have dull songs, though some are elaborate.


Tanagers are omnivorous, and their diets vary from genus to genus. They have been seen eating fruits, seeds, nectar, flower parts, and insects. Many pick insects off branches. Other species look for insects on the undersides of leaves. Yet others wait on branches until they see a flying insect and catch it in the air. Many of these particular species inhabit the same areas, but these specializations alleviate competition.


The breeding season is March through June in temperate areas and in September through October in South America. Some species are territorial, while others build their nests closer together. Little information is available on tanager breeding behavior. Males show off their brightest feathers to potential mates and rival males. Some species' courtship rituals involve bowing and tail lifting.

Most tanagers build cup nests on branches in trees. Some nests are almost globular. Entrances are usually built on the side of the nest. The nests can be shallow or deep. The species of the tree in which they choose to build their nests and the nests' positions vary among genera. Most species nest in an area hidden by very dense vegetation. No information is yet known regarding the nests of some species.

The clutch size is three to five eggs. The female incubates the eggs and builds the nest, but the male may feed the female while she incubates. Both sexes feed the young. Five species have helpers assist in feeding the young. These helpers are thought to be the previous year's nestlings.


Phylogenetic studies suggest the true tanagers form three main groups, two of which consist of several smaller, well-supported

  • tanager pictures
  • Tanager videos, photos and sounds on the Internet Bird Collection
  • Thraupidae at DMOZ

External links

  • Lijtmaer, D. A., N. M. Sharpe, P. L. Tubaro & S. C. Lougheed. 2004. Molecular phylogenetics and diversification of the genus Sporophila (Aves: Passeriformes). Mol. Philo. Evol. 33:562-579.
  • Lougheed, S. C., J. R. Freeland, P. Handford, & I. T. Boag. 2000. A molecular phylogeny of warbling-finches (Poospiza): paraphyly in a Neotropical emberizid genus. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 17: 367-378.
  • Montereybay. 2000 July. 6-11. Tanagers: Thraupidae Accessed 2006 March 4.
  • Naoki, K. 2003. Evolution of Ecological Diversity in the Neotropical Tanagers of the Genus Tangara (Aves: Thraupidae). Dissertation available online, given to Louisiana State University.
  • Ridgely, R. S., & G. Tudor. 1989. The Birds of South America, vol. 1. Univ. Texas Press, Austin.
  • Robbins, M. B., M. J. Braun, C. J. Huddleston, D. W. Finch, & C. M. Milensky (2005). First Guyana records, natural history, and systematics of the White-winged Seedeater (Dolospingus fringilloides). Ibis 147:334-341.
  • Sato, A., C. O'Huigin, F. Figueroa, P. R. Grant, B. R. Grant, H. Tichy, and J. Klein. 1999. Phylogeny of Darwin's finches as revealed by mtDNA sequences. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 96: 5101-5106.
  • Webster, J.D. & Webster, J.R. 1999. Skeletons and the genera. of sparrows (Emberizinae). Auk 116: 1054–1074.
  • Yuri, T., and D. P. Mindell. 2002. Molecular phylogenetic analysis of Fringillidae, "New World nine-primaried oscines" (Aves: Passeriformes) Mol. Phylogen. Evol. 23:229-243.
  • Bent, A. Life Histories of Blackbirds, Orioles, Tanagers, and Allies. New York:Dover Publications:1965. 549 p.
  • Burns, K. J., S. J. Hackett, and N. K. Klein. 2002. Phylogenetic relationships and morphological diversity in Darwin's finches and their relatives. Evolution 56: 1240-1252.
  • Burns, K. J., S. J. Hackett, and N. K. Klein. 2003. Phylogenetic relationships of Neotropical honeycreepers and the evolution of feeding morphology. J. Avian Biology 34: 360-370.
  • Clark, G. A., JR. 1986. Systematic interpretations of foot-scute patterns of Neotropical finches. Wilson Bull. 98: 594-597.
  • Fjeldså J. and Rahbek C. (2006). Diversification of tanagers, a species rich bird group, largely follows lowlands to montane regions of South America. Integrative and Comparative Biology 46(1):72-81. Download -
  • Greeney, H. 2005. Nest and eggs of the Yellow-whiskered Bush Tanager in Eastern Ecuador. Ornitologia Neotropical 16: 437- 438.
  • Hellmayr, C. E. 1935. Catalogue of birds of the Americas and the adjacent islands in Field Museum of Natural History. Fieldiana Zoology v.13, pt.8. - for "Coerebidae". (Download available at
  • Hellmayr, C. E. 1936. Catalogue of birds of the Americas and the adjacent islands in Field Museum of Natural History. Fieldiana Zoology v.13, pt.9. Tersinidae - Thraupidae. (Download available at
  • Hellmayr, C. E. 1938. Catalogue of birds of the Americas and the adjacent islands in Field Museum of Natural History. Fieldiana Zoology v.13, pt.11. Ploceidae - Catamblyrhynchidae - Fringillidae. (Download available at
  • Infonatura. 2005 June. Birds, mammals, and amphibians of Latin America Accessed 2006 March 4.
  • Isler M. Isler P. The Tanagers a Natural History, Distribution, and Identification. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press: 1987. 404 p.
  • Klicka, J., K. Burns, & G. M. Spellman. 2007. Defining a monophyletic Cardinalini: A molecular perspective. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 45: 1014-1032
  • Latta, S. 2006. et al. Aves de la República Dominicana y Haití. Princeton University Press.
  1. ^ Burns, K.J. et al. (2014) Phylogenetics and diversification of tanagers (Passeriformes: Thraupidae), the largest radiation of Neotropical songbirds. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.
  2. ^ Yuri & Mindell (2002)
  3. ^ Fjeldså & Rahbek (2006) & Klicka et al. (2007)
  4. ^ See
  5. ^ Burns et al. (2003) & Klicka et al. (2007)
  6. ^ See Webster & Webster (1999). If the presence of a free lacrimal bone as found in Haplospiza, Acanthidops, and two of the three Catamenias has any phylogenetic significance then this clade may also include several other "tanager-finches" that share this feature
  7. ^ Klicka (2007)
  8. ^ Webster & Webster (1999) & Klicka et al. (2007), probably polyphyletic
  9. ^ a b Klicka et al. (2007)
  10. ^ Clark (1986)
  11. ^ See Lijtmaer et al. (2004) & Robbins et al. (2005). Polyphyletic. Members of this genus are paraphyletic with various members of Sporophila
  12. ^ See Robbins et al. (2005). This species is nested within a group containing both Sporophila and Oryzoborus
  13. ^ Burns et al. (2003)
  14. ^ (See below: Group 1f)
  15. ^ Klicka et al. (2007). This species formerly placed near Passerina in the Cardinalidae is related to Phrygilus alaudinus a tanager-finch
  16. ^ Klicka et al. (2007). This genus is very likely polyphyletic within its clade
  17. ^ Ridgely & Tudor (1989) p.472
  18. ^ Klicka et al. (2007). Some members of this genus paraphyletic with respect to certain Tangara
  19. ^ See Burns et al. (2002) for the circumscription of this group the "domed nest clade" or "Tholospiza".
  20. ^ See Burns et al. (2002). Exact affinities uncertain but probably sister species to Tiaris olivacea in the "Tholospiza"
  21. ^ See Apparently close to mountain-tanagers Dubusia and Delothraupis
  22. ^ See Burns et al. (2003) for close relationship of these species
  23. ^ See Burns et al. (2003), Klicka et al. (2007) - may be closer to group 1
  24. ^ a b Klicka & Spellman (2007)
  25. ^ See
  26. ^ Klicka et al. (2007). Apparently closest to Saltator atricollis and this species may require moving to Saltatricula
  27. ^ See May be related to the emberizine genus Atlapetes
  28. ^ See


Fringillidae, subfamily Euphoniinae:

Related to the cardinals in Cardinalidae:[28]

Related to Arremonops and other American sparrows in Emberizidae:

Recently split from Thraupidae

The western tanager (Piranga ludoviciana) seems to be closer to cardinals.

Thraupidae incertae sedis

  • Genus Saltator (16 species; traditionally placed in Cardinalidae, but biochemical evidence suggests they may be tanagers or a sister group[24])
  • Genus Saltatricula – many-colored Chaco finch - traditionally placed in the Emberizidae, but may be related to one of the saltators[25][26]


Group 3

  • Genus Chlorochrysa (three species)
  • Genus Parkerthraustes – yellow-shouldered grosbeak (traditionally in Cardinalidae, but biochemical evidence[24] suggests it is a tanager)
  • Genus Nemosia – (two species)
  • Genus Compsothraupis – scarlet-throated tanager
  • Genus Sericossypha – white-capped tanager
Green honeycreeper, Chlorophanes spiza
h) Basal lineages within group 2:
  • Genus Tersina – swallow tanager
  • Genus Cyanerpes, the typical honeycreepers (four species)
  • Genus Pseudodacnis – turquoise dacnis-tanager
  • Genus Dacnis, the dacnises (eight species)

g) Typical honeycreepers and relatives:[23]

f) Green and golden-collared honeycreepers:[22]

e) Typical multicolored tanagers (includes Paroaria traditionally placed in either Emberizidae or Cardinalidae):

d) Typical tanagers:

Blue-gray tanager, Thraupis episcopus

c) Mountain tanagers:

Green-and-gold tanager, Tangara schrankii

b) The "Tholospiza" - Darwin's finches, grassquits, atypical honeycreepers, and some seedeaters:[19] The finch-like forms in this clade were formerly classified in the Emberizidae:

a) Tropical canopy tanagers:

Diversity of Darwin's finches

"Typical" colorful tanagers

Group 2

i) Basal forms in group 1:

h) A miscellaneous and likely polyphyletic group of unplaced "tanager-finches" (which may or may not include the species called tanager-finch) whose members when studied will no doubt be relocated to other clades:

Male yellow-bridled finch, Melanodera xanthogramma

g) Grass and pampa-finches, relationships within Thraupidae are uncertain, but together form a well-supported clade:[9]

f) The Poospiza clade - a diverse but close-knit group containing both warbler- and finch-like forms:

Orange-headed tanager, Thlypopsis sordida

e) "Blue Finch" clade, relationships within Thraupidae uncertain, but may be related to Poospiza clade:[14]

d) "Crested" clade (Also contains Coryphospingus and Volatinia traditionally placed in the Emberizidae):

Brazilian tanager, Ramphocelus bresilius

c) "Yellow-rumped" clade:[13]

Male variable seedeater, Sporophila corvina

b) True seedeaters. Traditionally placed in Emberizidae, these genera share a particular foot-scute pattern which suggests they may form a monophyletic group:[10]

a) Conebill and flowerpiercer group (Also contains Haplospiza, Catamenia, Acanthidops, Diglossa, Diglossopis, Phrygilus and Sicalis[5] traditionally in the Emberizidae)[6] This group despite having a rather varied bill morphology shows marked plumage similarities. Most are largely gray, blue, or black, and numerous species have rufous underparts:

Slaty finch, Haplospiza rustica

Mainly dull-colored forms

Group 1


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.