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Brassy-breasted Tanager Tangara desmaresti

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Thraupidae
  • Monotypic
  • Authors: Megan Morris and Kevin J. Burns


Distinguishing Characteristics

The Brassy-breasted Tanager is an average-sized tanager (Thraupidae). It is a multi-colored tanager, mostly green with a bright turquoise blue forehead and eye ring, black spot on the lower throat, and a brassy-colored breast. It is one of the few tanager species with black streaking on its back. The Brassy-breasted Tanager is closely related to Tangara cyanoventris, the Gilt-edged Tanager (Sedano and Burns 2010).

Similar Species

The Brassy-breasted Tanager is uniquely colored and distinguishable from other tanagers by its bright emerald green upperparts and brassy breast (Isler and Isler 1987). The Gilt-edged Tanager (Tangara cyanoventris) is the most similar in appearance to the Brassy-breasted Tanager, as both species have black streaking on their backs; however, the Gilt-edged Tanager has blue underparts with a mostly yellow head, while the Brassy-breasted Tanager has a mostly green-blue belly with yellow on the center of the belly and an emerald green head with black streaking (Ridgely and Tudor 2009). The Brassy-breasted Tanager may also be distinguished from other tanagers by its unique turquoise-blue forecrown and ocular area (Ridgely and Tudor 2009).

Detailed Description

The Brassy-breasted Tanager has a black-streaked nape and back, similar to the Gilt-edged (Tangara cyanoventris), Blue-whiskered (Tangara johannae), Green-and-gold (Tangara schrankii), Emerald (Tangara florida), Golden (Tangara arthus), Silver-throated (Tangara icterocephala), Saffron-crowned (Tangara xanthocephala), and Golden-eared (Tangara chrysotis) tanagers; however, the Brassy-breasted Tanager is distinguished by its emerald green upperparts, besides the face and rump, and brassy ochre colored breast (Isler and Isler 1987, Ridgely and Tudor 2009). The Brassy-breasted Tanager is mostly emerald green overall, but has bold markings with black around the bill and a small, black throat patch (Isler and Isler 1987, Ridgely and Tudor 2009). The undertail coverts and center of the lower belly are bright yellow, whereas orange-yellow colorations mark the chin and lesser coverts (Isler and Isler 1987). The color pattern of the head of the Brassy-breasted Tanager is unique, with a black forehead, turquoise blue lower forehead and ocular region (Sick 1993, Isler and Isler 1987). The tail is mostly black and the wings are black and green; however, the amount of bright green coloration on the wing can vary (Ridgely and Tudor 1989). Male and female Brassy-breasted Tanagers have similar appearance and their coloration does not change with the breeding season (Skutch 1989).


In general, most tanagers only molt once a year (Isler and Isler 1987), and this prebasic molt likely occurs afterthe breeding season (Isler and Isler 1987, Ryder and Wolfe 2009). However, many species have been found to breed in subadult plumage (Isler and Isler 1987). In many species of Tangara, the preformative molt is partial (Ryder and Wolfe 2009). More specific data on molt is not available for Tangara desmaresti.

Bare Parts

Iris: dark brown

Bill: black

Tarsi: dark horn gray

Bare part color data from Hilty (2011).


Total length: 13-14 cm (Ridgely and Tudor 1989, Sick 1993, Isler and Isler 1987, Perlo 2009, Ridgely and Tudor 2009)

Table 1: Measurement data (mm) on Tangara desmaresti; from Reinert et al. (1996)

Wing lengthTail LengthTarsus LengthBeak Length n
67.9 ± 2.3
(66.2 - 70.6)
63.2 ± 1.7
(62.0 - 65.1)
20.1 ± 0.6
(19.6 - 20.8)
7.2 ± 0.1
(7.2 -7.3)

Mass, sex indeterminate:
19.5 g (n = 1), 21.5 g ( n = 2) (Reinert et al. 1996)

Mass, male:
19.0 (n = 1) (Isler and Isler 1987)

Recommended Citation

Morris, M. and K. J. Burns (2012). Brassy-breasted Tanager (Tangara desmaresti), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.