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Tangara xanthocephala

Saffron-crowned Tanager

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Thraupidae
  • Polytypic 3 Subspecies

Authors: Iddings, Robert, and Kevin J. Burns

Life History


Saffron-crowned Tanager is the most frugivorous of any member of Tangara. Fruits in the diet include those of Cecropia spp., Morus sp., Miconia spp., and other members of the Melostomataceae (Ridgely and Gaulin 1980). The Saffron-crowned Tanager only spends time in leafy terminal foliage to search for berries (Hilty 2003). The other major source of food intake for the Saffron-Crowned Tanager is insects which it forages for in a distinctively way shared by other members of species Group 5 (see description under Behavior). Stomach contents (n = 15) included fruit pulp, berries, seeds, and insects (Isler and Isler 1987).


Locomotion: Saffron-crowned Tanager is described as a restless forager, constantly moving about either flying or hopping around from branch to branch (Isler and Isler 1987, Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990).

Foraging Behavior: Saffron-crowned Tanager primarily is a bird of the canopy, although it forages for fruits at all heights. Fruits normally are gleaned while perched upright (Isler and Isler 1987). Like many other members of the genus Tangara, the Saffron-crowned Tanager forages for insects high in trees and sometimes lower at forest edge by peering head down along one side of the mossy branch, then along the other side (Hilty 2003). As described in Isler and Isler (1987), this species forages for insects by inspecting slender mossy branches with the diagonal-lean or head-down method, reaching into mossy clumps on the undersides of branches, and sometimes poking its entire head into moss.


No information.

Sexual Behavior

The Saffron-crowned Tanager forms mated pairs and is often times seen in these pairs (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001); presumably they are at least socially monogamous. However, there is no information on other sexual behaviors involving the length or formation of these pair bonds.

Social and interspecific behavior

Saffron-crowned Tanager is mainly seen in pairs or small groups, as well as seen in mixed species flocks consisting mostly other tanagers (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001). According to Isler and Isler (1987), pairs and groups consisting of 3-10 individuals of Saffron-crowned tanagers travel with other canopy birds, in particular other tanagers. On average, the Saffron-crowned Tanager is seen in a mixed-species flock 9.1 percent of the time, however the number of individual Saffron-crowned Tanagers seen in these flocks is only 1 (Bohorquez 2003).  In Venezuela, Saffron-crowned Tanager is often associated with Beryl-spangled (Tangara nigroviridis), Golden (Tangara arthus), and Black-capped (Tangara heinei) tanagers (Hilty 2003).   


No information.


Little information. Specimens in breeding condition are reported from the western Andes of Colombia March-May (Miller 1963); from June and July in northern Colombia (Hilty and Brown 1986); and from April in Cuzco, Peru (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990). Juveniles reported from April in Mérida, Venezuela; from March, April, and September in Colombia; from February, April, and August in Peru; and from November and December in Bolivia (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990).

The only reported nest was found in November in Puno, Peru (Isler and Isler 1987). The nest was found 12 m above the ground "in a clump of moss hanging from the underside of the lowest branch of a 20 m tree about 0.7 m from the trunk", and contained two eggs. 

Populations and Demography

There is no information related to topics such as age at first breeding, life span and survivorship, dispersal, or population regulation for Saffron-crowned Tanager.

Recommended Citation

Iddings, Robert, and Kevin J. Burns. 2012. Saffron-crowned Tanager (Tangara xanthocephala), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: