The silver-throated tanager (Tangara icterocephala) is a small passerine bird. This brightly coloured tanager is a resident from Costa Rica, through Panama and western Colombia, to western Ecuador.


The generic feminine name Tangara derives from the word in the Tupi language «tangará», which means «dancer» and was originally used to designate a variety of brightly colored birds; and the species name «icterocephala» is made up of the Greek words «ikterus»: yellow jaundice, and «kephalos»: head.6


Original description

The species T. icterocephala was first described by the French zoologist Charles Lucien Bonaparte in 1851 under the scientific name Calliste icterocephala; its type locality is: «Punta Playa valley, south of Quito, Ecuador» .4


Recent extensive phylogenetic studies show that the present species is the sister of Tangara florida, and the pair formed by both is the brother of Tangara arthus.7


According to the classifications of the International Ornithological Congress (IOC) 8 and Clements Checklist / eBird v.20199, three subspecies are recognized, with their corresponding geographical distribution: 9

  • Tangara icterocephala frantzii (Cabanis), 1861 – humid highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama.
  • Tangara icterocephala oresbia Wetmore, 1962 – mountains of west central Panama.
  • Tangara icterocephala icterocephala (Bonaparte), 1851 – east of Panama (Darien) and west of Colombia to the extreme northwest of Peru.


The adult silver-throated tanager is 13 centimetres (5.1 in) long and weighs 21 grams (0.74 oz). The male is mainly yellow, with black streaks down its back, and a whitish throat bordered above with a black malar stripe. The wings and tail are black with pale green edgings. The sexes are similar, but adult females have duller and greener-tinged yellow plumage, and sometimes dark mottling on the crown. Immatures are much duller and greener, with dusky wings, tail, back streaks and malar stripe, a grey throat and darker green wing edging. The silver-throated tanager’s call is a distinctive sharp buzzy zzeeep. It does not sing.

Distribution and habitat

In Costa Rica it is a common bird from 600 to 1,700 metres (2,000 to 5,600 ft) altitude in the lower and middle levels of wet mountain forests and adjacent semi-open areas like clearings with shade trees, second growth and woodland edges. In the heavy rains of the wet season, it will descend to sea level. In the South American part of its range it mainly occurs between 500 and 1,300 metres (1,600 and 4,300 ft), but can be found at altitudes of 150 to 2,100 metres (490 to 6,890 ft).


Silver-throated tanagers occur in pairs, small groups, or as part of a mixed-species feeding flock. They eat small fruit, usually swallowed whole, insects and spiders.

The compact cup nest is built 1–13 metres (3.3–42.7 ft) in a tree on a branch. The normal clutch is two brown-blotched off-white eggs. This species will raise two broods in a season.

Vocalization/ Song


BirdLife International (2020). «Tangara icterocephala». IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020.3. ISSN 2307-8235. Retrieved April 5, 2021.

Bonaparte, C.L. (1851). «Zoologie. Note sur les Tanagers, leurs affinités, et descriptions d’espèces nouvelles ». Compte Rendu des Séances de l’Académie des Sciences (in French) (Paris: Bachelier). 32: 76–83. Calliste icterocephala, original description p.76. Available at Biodiversitas Heritage Library. ISSN 1251-8050.

From Juana, E; Del Hoyo, J; Fernández-Cruz, M; Ferrer, X; Sáez-Royuela, R; Sargatal, J (2012). «Names in Spanish of the birds of the world recommended by the Spanish Ornithological Society (Sixteenth part: Order Passeriformes, Families Thraupidae to Icteridae)». Ardeola. Handbook of the Birds of the World (Madrid: SEO / BirdLife) 59 (1): 157-166. ISSN 0570-7358. Accessed April 5, 2021. P. 159.