Black-and-gold Tanager Bangsia melanochlamys



Distinguishing Characteristics

The Black-and-gold Tanager (Bangsia melanochlamys) is a small, short-tailed, chunky tanager that is primarily black above, bright yellow below more ochraceous on the chest, with deep blue lesser wing coverts and upper tail coverts. The sexes look similar, with the female a duller version of the male. It is similar in appearance to the congeneric Golden-chested Tanager (Bangsia rothschildi), though the two are not known to occur sympatrically. The Black-and-gold Tanager is highly endemic, known only from small areas of cloud forest in the Central and Western Andes of Colombia.

Similar Species

The species that is most similar to the Black-and-gold Tanager is the Golden-chested Tanager (Bangsia rothschildi), both being primarily dark dorsally and containing yellow ventrally. The primary way to distinguish these species is that the yellow is confined to the chest and the undertail coverts in the Golden-chested Tanager, whereas the yellow patch of the Black-and-gold Tanager extends through the belly from the chest to the undertail coverts. Further, the Golden-chested Tanager is primarily dark navy-blue above, whereas the Black-and-gold Tanager is black dorsally with blue lesser wing-coverts (Hilty and Brown 1986, Ridgely and Tudor 2009). The Black-and-gold Tanager is allopatric to Golden-chested Tanager, with the Black-and-gold Tanager resides in the Northern Andes of Colombia and the Golden-chested Tanager found on the Pacific slopes of the West Andes (Isler and Isler 1987, Ridgely and Tudor 1989). The elevations in which they are found also differ, with the Black-and-gold Tanager found at elevations of 1300-2450 m and the Golden-chested Tanager found at elevations of 250-1100 m (Hilty and Brown 1986).

Detailed Description

Adults have a short, robust tail, like the rest of the tanagers of the genus Bangsia, and a thick black bill. The entire head, mantle, back, the sides of the breast, rump and tail are a dull black (Hellmayr 1910, Hilty 2011). The uppertail coverts are dull indigo blue, but are usually hidden (Hellmayr 1910, Hilty 2011). The bend of the wing and the lesser and median upperwing coverts shine cerulean blue, but are also usually hidden (Hellmayr 1910, Hilty 2011). The greater coverts are black often with blue fringes, and the primary coverts are black (Hellmayr 1910, Hilty 2011). The flight feather and tertials are dull black, as are the throat, chest, sides, flanks and thighs (Hilty 2011). Retrices are narrowly fringed dull blue along the outer web (Hellmayr 1910). The Axillaries are pale yellow and the under wing coverts are yellowish-white (Hellmayr 1910). Below, the throat and sides of the breast are deep black (Hellmayr 1910). The upper part of the breast is a bright orchraceous yellow, appearing golden-orange in certain light, that fades to golden yellow the belly to the undertail coverts (Ridgely and Tudor 1989, Hilty 2011). Sexual differences are not apparent in the field, with females slightly duller and less glossy backs and heads than males, and with the orange in the breast less glossy (Stiles 1998). Sexual dichromatism is likely more apparent to the birds than to human observers, for the sexes are dichromatic in the UV spectrum, as evidenced from analysis based on a model of avian vision (Burns and Shultz 2012). Juveniles have not been described (Restall et al. 2006, Hilty 2011).


Tanagers that have been studied have either a Complex Basic Strategy or Complex Alternative Strategy (Ryder and Wolfe 2009). However, most tanagers only molt once a year, 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.

Bare Parts

The iris is dark red, dark maroon, or brown (Hellmayr 1910, Hilty 2011). The mandible, legs, and feet are black to blackish or grey (Hellmayr 1910, Hilty and Brown 1986, Restall et al. 2006, Ridgely and Tudor 2009, Hilty 2011). The mandible has also been described as being paler at the base (Restall et al. 2006).


The length is about 15-16 cm (Hilty and Brown 1986, Isler and Isler 1987, Ridgely and Tudor 1989). Other reported measurements include a culmen of 15.5 mm, wing of 90 mm, and tail of 53 mm (Hellmayr 1910). Measurements from a series collected by Stiles (1998) is reported in Table 1 below.

Table 1. Measurements from Stiles 1998.
Sex Males (n=5) Females (n=3)
Total Culmen 13.47, 0.48 (12.9-14.0) 13.07, 0.16 (12.9-13.2)
Exposed Culmen 17.55, 0.42 (17.4-18.0) 17.23, 0.25 (11.7-12.2)
Commissure Width 11.96, 0.39 (11.6-12.6) 11.96, 0.25 (11.7-12.2)
Bill Depth at Nostril 7.75, 0.13 (7.5-8.0) 7.87, 0.15 (7.7-8.0)
Tarsus Length 24.72, 0.94 (23.8-25.8) 24.60, 0.36 (24.3-25.0)
Wing Chord 85.56, 1.11 (84.0-86.5) 82.30, 1.71 (80.5-83.5)
Tail Length 45.06, 0.88 (44.0-47.) 44.96, 1.50 (43.5-46.5)
Body Mass (g) 38.80, 0.81 (37.7-39.4) 35.65, 0.92 (35.0-36.3)

Recommended Citation

Black-and-gold Tanager (Bangsia melanochlamys), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: