Blue-capped Tanager Thraupis cyanocephala



Distinguishing Characteristics

The Blue-capped Tanager is a conspicuous bird with a bright blue head, with grayish underparts and an ashy black mask. Thighs and undertail coverts are yellow, and the back is olive-yellow in coloration.

Similar Species

The female Blue-and-Yellow Tanager could be considered similar to the Blue-capped Tanager. The Blue-and-Yellow Tanager can be distinguished by is largely yellow underside, in contrast to the Blue-capped Tanager’s grayish breast and underside (Schulenberg et al. 2007).

Detailed Description

The following description refers to the nominate subspecies, Thraupis cyanocephala cyanocephala; for the other subspecies, see Geographic Variation. While coloration of plumage varies across subspecies, the blue cap with blackish mask, olive-green back, and yellow underwing coverts are characteristic across the entire species (Restall et al. 2007) (Schulenberg et al. 2007). The head is a royal blue, the underside is gray, and the undertail-coverts, thighs, underwing-coverts, and underwings are varying shades of yellow (Restall et al. 2007). The lores and forehead are black (Schauensee 366). Hilty (2011) states that juveniles have less pronounced blue on the head, and confirms that the underparts are mostly gray.


Tanagers that have been studied have either a Complex Basic Strategy or Complex Alternative Strategy 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.
Restall et al. (2007) describes the juveniles upper parts as duller than the adults, less blue above and more gray on the underparts. This description is in accordance with Hilty (2011) in stating the lesser pronounced blue on the juvenile head, and mostly gray underparts.

Bare Parts

Iris: Chestnut-brown (Restall et al. 2007)
Bill: Black (ffrench, 1991)
Legs: Gray (Restall et al. 2007)
Feet: Gray (Restall et al. 2001)


Total length: 18 cm (7”) (Ridgley and Tudor 1989).
Mean Mass, both sexes: 36 g (Isler and Isler 1987)
Min Mass, both sexes: 27 g (Isler and Isler 1987)
Max Mass, both sexes: 47 g (Isler and Isler 1987)
Wing length, males: 78-76 mm (Ffrench, 1991)
Wing length, females: 80 – 85 mm (Ffrench, 1991)

Recommended Citation

Blue-capped Tanager (Thraupis cyanocephala), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: