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Blue-gray Tanager Thraupis episcopus



Geographic Variation

Fourteen subspecies are recognized Thraupis episcopus (Clements et. al. 2013).

T. e. cana - The lesser wing-coverts are ultramarine-blue, with dusky median coverts which have a broad edged dullish blue. The edges of the greater wing-coverts are a pale blue while the primary coverts are a dark blue. The flight-feathers are a bright blue. Females look almost the same but are slightly duller then the males (Hilty 2003, Hilty 2011). Found in southeast Mexico south through Central America. Including Pearl Island all the way to Colombia west of the eastern Andes. On the Caribbean coast and North Venezuela (SE Mexico (San Luis Potosí) to n Venezuela; Pearl Islands) (Clements et al. 2013).

T. e. caesitia - Much like the T. e. cana but they are slightly darker in color from the throat all the way to the undertail-coverts. Their sides are also slightly darker (Hilty 2011). Caribbean coast of west Panama (Escudo de Veraguas) (Clements et. al. 2013)

T. e. cumatilis - They are smaller than T. e. caesitia. They have the same coloring as T. e. cana but the males have bluish green greater wing-coverts, primary coverts, and edges on their flight-feathers. The females have dark blue primary edges and wing-coverts (Hilty 2011). Cobia Island and off South West Panama (Clements et. al. 2013)

T. e. nesophilia - Have median and lesser coverts that are the same color as the rest of the wing (Hilty 2011). Extreme eastern Colombia to eastern Venezuela; Trinidad (Clements et. al. 2013)

T. e. berlepschi - Overall they are brighter then the others and their rump and lesser wing-coverts are dark blue (Hilty 2011). Found in Tobago (Clements et. al. 2013).

T. e. quaesita - Looks a lot like T. e. cana but their males have bluish-green coloring on the greater wing-coverts, primary coverts and edge of the flight-feathers (Hilty 2011). On the east slope of the Andes in Colombia, south on Pacific slope all the way to northwestern Peru (Clements et. al. 2013).

T. e. leucoptera- They have white or mixed grayish blue lesser coverts, median coverts and shoulders. Their greater coverts have a very slight white tip. Both the males and females have lighter blue edged flight feathers (Hilty 2011). East slope of eastern Andes of central Colombia

T. e. mediana- They have whitish shoulders and lesser and median wing-coverts are mixed with bluish-gray but the both sexes have greater wing coverts that are edged with white. They have edged blue flight-feathers and tail (Hilty 2003). Southeastern Colombia to extreme northern Bolivia and northern Brazil (Clements et al. 2013).

T. e. coelestis – This subspecies has a more bluish-gray rump, head, mantle back and ventral side. The uppertail-coverts are a light silvery blue. Tail is a dull blue with outer feathers to edged blue. The lesser and median wing-coverts are both white while the greater coverts are a dull cerulean blue with white tips. Primary coverts are dark blue. The females are very similar to the males except that they have greater coverts that are a brighter blue and flight-feathers with a paler blue (Hilty 2011). Southeastern Colombia to extreme northern Bolivia and northern Brazil (Clements et. al. 2013).

T. e. episcopus - (Hilty 2011). See detailed description section (above) for plumage information. The Guianas and northern Brazil (Clements et. al. 2013).

T. e. caerulea- They have white median and lesser wing-coverts, white tipped greater coverts, and more blue then both the major and coelestis (Hilty 2011). Southeastern Ecuador and northern Peru (south to Huánuco) (Clements et. al. 2013).

T. e. major- They look very similar to the caerulea but they are slightly paler (Hilty 2011). Central Peru (Chanchamayo Valley of Ica) (Clements et. al. 2013)

T. e. urubambae- Paler and duller head and their wingbars are not very white like the other subspecies (Hilty 2011). Southeast Peru (Urubamba Valley and Amazonian drainage (Clements et. al. 2013).

Related Species

The Blue-gray 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, and Thraupis cyanocephala is only distantly related to the other Thraupis species. The remaining Thraupis species form a monophyletic group (Burns et al. 2014). However, this clade is deeply embedded in the genus Tangara; therefore, Burns et al. (2014) suggest that these species be included within Tangara. Within Thraupis, DNA sequence data show that the Blue-gray Tanager is most closely related to the Sayaca Tanager, Thraupis sayaca, although Thraupis glaucocolpa has not yet been sequenced (Burns and Sedano 2010, Burns et al. 2014). Thraupis sayaca has sometimes been considered conspecific with Thraupis episcopus, and some populations need further investigation to clarify to which species they belong (Hilty 2011). Sedano and Burns (2010) included one individual of each species, and levels of sequence divergence were typical of well-differentiated species. In addition, they included two individuals of T. episcopus. Levels of sequence divergence were typical for that seen for mtDNA within species (0.15%). The Blue-gray Tanager and the Palm Tanager have very similar behaviors, are fairly closely related, and have been known to hybridize (Wetmore et al. 1984).

Recommended Citation

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