Blue-capped Tanager Thraupis cyanocephala



Geographic Variation

Eight subspecies are recognized for Thraupis cyanocephala (Clements et al. 2013).
T. c. cyanocephala – For plumage, see Detailed Description. Found in the Andes of west Ecuador to eastern Peru and northern Bolivia (Clements et al. 2013) .
T. c. annectens – Similar in plumage to nominate subspecies, but throat and breast are vibrantly blue, transitioning to bluish-gray at low underparts (Hilty 2011). Underparts are slightly darker gray, and more heavily tinged blue below than subcinerea and cyanocephala (Hilty 2011, Restall et al.l, 2007). Found in the western and central Andes of central Colombia, south to Narino and Putumayo (Hilty 2011, Clements et al. 2013).
T. c. auricrissa – Very similar to T. c. annectens with underparts slightly darker gray, more heavily tinged blue below (Hilty 2011, Restall et al. 2007). Bright yellow from the center of belly and thighs through the undertail-coverts (Restall et al. 2007). Found in the eastern Andes of north-central Colombia and western Venezuela (Clements et al. 2013)
T. c. buesingi – underparts dark gray, whitish malar stripe like subcinerea (Hilty 2011). Blackish sides of head, blue on top, sides of head dusky-gray. Distinguished light gray moustachial underlined in black. The undertail coverts are slightly green, outlined in yellow (Restall et al. 2007). Found in the mountains of northeastern Venezuela (Paria Peninsula), and in Trinidad (Clements et al. 2013).

T. c. hypophaea – Underparts gradually but strongly blue (Restall et al. 2007). Found in Andes of northwestern Venezuela (in Lara) (Hilty 2011, Clements et al. 2013).
T. c. margaritae – Generally smaller than nominate subspecies (Hilty 2011). Pale blue of throat strongly contrasts with gray underparts (Restall et al. 2007). Heavily tinged blue throat down to sharp line on the center of the breast. Found in the Santa Marta Mountains of northeastern Colombia (Clements et al. 2013).
T. c. olivicyanea –Entire head, and most of underparts extensively blue (Hilty 2011). Gray belly with yellow thighs and yellowish-green undertail coverts (Restall et al. 2007). Northern Venezuela in the littoral chain of the coastal range from Aragua to Miranda (Hilty 2011, Clements et al. 2013).
T. c. subcinerea – Similar to T. c. cyanocephala but with distinct light-gray mustachial (Restall et al. 2007). Underparts gray, whitish malar stripe. Northeast Venezuela in the coastal mountains of Sucre and Monagas, and Trinidad (Hilty 2011, Clements, et al., 2013).

Related Species

The Blue-capped Tanager is a member of the tanager family (Thraupidae) and belongs to a clade known as the “core tanagers” (subfamily Thraupinae) that includes 122 species and 22 genera, including Thraupis and Tangara (Burns et al. 2014). The genus Thraupis contains eight extant species, seven of which have been sampled genetically (Sedano and Burns 2010, Burns et al. 2014). Thraupis glaucocolpa has not been sampled. The remaining species of Thraupis, except Thraupis cyanocephala, form a monophyletic group that is embedded within Tangara (Sedano and Burns 2010, Burns et al. 2014). DNA sequence data show that T. cyanocephala is more distantly related to these species. Instead, T. cyanocephala is in a clade with Buthraupis montana, B. wetmorei, Chloronis riefferii, Cnemathraupis aureodorsalis, C. eximia, and the five species of Anisognathus. Genetic studies have been unable to identify, with strong support, the closest relative of T. cyanocephala within this clade. Because of the distant relationship between T. cyanocephala and the other Thraupis, a new genus is needed for T. cyanocephala. Burns et al. (2014) suggested that the available name Sporathraupis be used for this species.

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: