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Chlorochrysa calliparaea

Orange-eared Tanager

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Thraupidae

Authors: Bierman, Bryan



The Orange-eared Tanager (Chlorochrysa calliparaea) is a small, strong-legged, bright green tanager with a dark throat and orange spots on both sides of its neck. The species is relatively widespread from central Bolivia to Colombia, but becoming more uncommon and populations more isolated to the north with only sight observations in Venezuela. This denizen of cloud forest habitats often forages in mixed species flocks, eating both arthropods and fruit.

Similar Species

The Orange-eared Tanager belongs to the genus Chlorochrysa that are known for their bright green plumages and club-tipped feathers. Overall the Orange-eared Tanager shares similarities with various members of the genus Tangara such as club-tipped feathers, waxy feather, and foraging behavior; forming mixed flock groups. The male is seldom confused because of its dark throat and orange neck spots. The female however is easily confused with other green Andean species such as the Green Honeycreeper, Bay-headed Tanager, Swallow Tanager, and female Chlorophonias. The key to identifying the female is Orange-eared Tanager is to look for its grey throat and orange rump band (Hilty 2002).


The vocalizations for the Orange-eared Tanager are generally high pitched. The dawn song is described as a high pitch wheezy lisping in a series of 4-8 notes that sounds like pseet-pseet-pseet-pseet-pseet (Hilty 2011). In Peru, the song is described as a long, complex series of high pitched warbles, of repeated phrases ( (Hilty and Brown 1986). The call while moving through the canopy is a regular tssip, tssip tssip ( Additional audio recordings of vocalizations of Chlorochrysa calliparaea can be heard at xeno-canto (

Nonvocal Sounds

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Detailed Description (appearance)

The following description refers to the nominate subspecies, Chlorochrysa c. calliparaea; for the other subspecies, see Geographic Variation. This species is characterized by its primarily shining, metallic, emerald green plumage, dark throat, its orange/rufous colored narrow rump, orange crown, and burnt-orange side of neck (just below the auriculars).

The adult male Orange-eared Tanager has glistening emerald green feathers with black at the bases, a small golden-orange patch on its crown, and an orange/rufous band across its lower rump. It has three central pairs of dark green tail feathers that are sharply edged bright green, the rest being mainly black. The coverts are generally black and edged bright green. The primaries, secondaries, and tertials are edged bright green, the outer web of each feather is green, and the inner web is black. The throat is black and connects to a small orange patch on both sides of the neck. The lower breast and belly are a glistening dark blue/green (Hilty 2011). The adult female is similar to the male except a duller green color over all, less blue on the belly, and a smaller neck patch (Hilty 2011). The sexual dichromatism of this species is likely stronger than we can perceive, for analysis of plumage using an avian model of vision has measured dichromatism in the ultraviolet spectrum (Burns and Shultz 2012). The juvenile is mainly a dull green (Hilty 2011)

Club-tipped feathers are feathers that have enlarged bards on the tips and an absence of barbules on the barbs (Innes 1979). Similar to this species in regards to club-tipped feathers are members of the genus Tangara, where these feathers appear in various location of the body. They appear in Tangara cyanocephala across the back of the neck. In Tangara parzudakki they are found in a less developed form under the eye. They are also found in the cap of Tangara ruficervix (Innes 1979).

Bare Parts

Bill: black (Restall et al. 2007, Hilty 2011)

Legs: dark grey (Restall et al. 2007, Hilty 2011)

Iris: dark brown (Restall et al. 2007, Hilty 2011)


Body Length: 12 cm (5 in.) (Isler and Isler 1987)

Body Length: 120.60 mm +/- 9.56 (Salaman et al. 2007)

Wing length: 67.20 mm +/- 3.27 (Salaman et al. 2007)

Weight: 16.50 g +/- 0.64 (Salaman et al. 2007)

Weight: Average:17 g, Minimum: 14.9 g, Maximum: 21.5 g (Isler and Isler 1987)

Male: Wing, 2.80; tail, 1.70; tarsus, 0.73; exposed culmen, 0.42 (Chapman 1901)

Female: Wing, 2.60; tail, 1.53; tarsus, 0.72; exposed culmen, 0.42 (Chapman 1901)


Tanagers that have been studied have either a Complex Basic Strategy or Complex Alternative Strategy (Ryder and Wolf 2009). However, most tanagers only molt once a year (Isler and Isler 1987), and this prebasic molt likely occurs after the breeding season (Isler and Isler 1987, Ryder and Wolfe 2009). Many species have been found to breed in subadult plumage (Isler and Isler 1987). More specific information on molt and its timing is not available for this species.

Geographic Variation

Three subspecies are recognized for the Orange-eared Tanager (Clements et al. 2014).

Chlorochrysa calliparaea calliparaea- The nominate subspecies is found in subtropical forests along the east slope of the Andes in Peru (Hilty 2011, Clements et al. 2014). This subspecies reflects almost no UV light on its breast (McKay 2013). For the nominate plumage see Detailed Description.

Chlorochrysa calliparaea bourcieri- This subspecies can be found along the west slope of the East Andes from Cundinamarca south to the upper Magdalena Valley, and along the east slope from Caquetá south to Huánuco and the Huallaga Valley in North East Peru (Hilty 2011). Chlorochrysa c. bourcieri resembles the nominate except the blue of the lower underparts is duller and not as dark. Also, this subspecies reflects strongly in the UV on its breast. The female however is much duller, has a grey throat instead of black, and smaller orange neck patches (Hilty 2011, Clements et al. 2014).

Chlorochrysa calliparaea fulgentissima-. This subspecies is found from along the east slope of the Andes of southern Peru (Puno) south to central Bolivia northwest Cochabamba (Hilty 2011). Race C. c. fulgentissima has a yellowish crown patch, a bright red neck patch as opposed to orange, a scarlet rump, and a deep violet-blue throat, breast, and belly (Chapman 1901). The female looks like the male except the violet-blue is duller (Clements et al. 2014, Hilty 2011).


The Orange-eared Tanager (Chlorochrysa calliparaea) was described from "Chinchon forests" near Junín, Peru (Tschudi 1844). In traditional linear classifications, Chlorochrysa was grouped with the Tangara (Storer 1970, Isler and Isler 1987). Support for this hypothesis came from the observation that both Chlorochrysa and some Tangara have club-shaped feathers (Innes 1979, Graves and Weske 1987) However, molecular phylogenetics has consistently recovered Chlorochrysa within a clade of tanagers where early-diverging lineages are restricted to the Andes (e.g. Bangsia and Wetmorethraupis) sister to a clade containing Chlorochrysa sister to a group that has apparently expanded south into other areas of South America (e.g., Lophospingus, Neothraupis, Diuca, and Paroaria; Burns and Naoki 2004, Sedano and Burns 2010, Burns et al. 2014). The monophyly of Chlorochrysa has never been controversial, with many morphological synapomorphies including plumage color, strong tarsi, and distinctive club-shaped orange feathers on the face, as well as aspects of their behavior and geography (Isler and Isler 1987). Molecular phylogenetics has repeatedly supported the monophyly of Chlorochrysa, with the Glistening-green Tanager (C. pheonicotis) sister to a clade containing the Orange-eared Tanager (C. calliparaea) and the Multicolored Tanager (C. nitidissima) (Burns and Sedano 2012, Burns et al. 2014). Molecular sequence divergence between and among the subspecies has not been assessed.

Recommended Citation

Bierman, Bryan. 2015. Orange-eared Tanager (Chlorochrysa calliparaea), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: