Cinnamon Tanager Schistochlamys ruficapillus

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Thraupidae
  • Monotypic
  • Authors: Amanda J. Gonzalez, Kevin J. Burns, and Casey H. Richart


Distinguishing Characteristics

Cinnamon Tanager is unlikely to be mistaken with its mainly blue gray body and cinnamon colored throat and breast. Although it shares its genus with another species, Black-faced Tanager (Schistochlamys melanopis), its characteristic cinnamon coloration is not shared. Its scientific name, Schistochlamys ruficapillus, has Latin and Greek origins. The genus Schistochlamys comes from the Latin word "schistus", meaning slate and the Greek word "khlamus", meaning mantle or cloak (Jobling 2010). The specific epithet, ruficapillus, comes from the Latin word "rufus", meaning red, and "capillus", meaning capped (Jobling 2010). Together, the scientific name refers to the predominately blue gray back of the bird and the cinnamon cap present on the head.

Similar Species

The other species in the genus Schistochlamys, S. melanopis (Black-faced Tanager), also has a predominately gray body, but lacks the cinnamon coloration and has an all black head, rather than the more limited black mask of Cinnamon Tanager (Ridgely and Tudor 1989). Black-faced Tanager inhabits a much greater area than Cinnamon Tanager, but the ranges of the two species overlap considerably (Isler and Isler 1987). In areas of overlap, one of the species will tend to be more abundant than the other and the two species are only sometimes in close proximity in central Brazil (Isler and Isler 1987).

Detailed Description

The following description refers to nominate ruficapillus; see also Geographic Variation:

Adult: This species is characterized by its cinnamon colored cheeks, forecrown, throat, upper chest, and undertail coverts. The forehead, lores, chin, and eyering are black, creating the appearance of a small black mask. The crown, nape, back, lower belly, tail and flight feathers are blue gray, with the primary coverts being a darker gray. The center of the lower belly and flanks are grayish white. The sexes are similar in appearance (Hilty 2011). The species is dichromatic, however, when quantified using a model of avian vision (Burns and Shultz 2012). Thus, these tanagers visually can distinguish between males and females, but humans are unable to see these differences.

Immature and subadult: The immature and subadult are similar to the adult plumage, but duller in coloration with a buffy yellow throat and upper chest and dusky foreface (Ridgely and Tudor 2009, Hilty 2011).


Tanagers that have been studied have either a Complex Basic Strategy or Complex Alternative Strategy (Ryder and Wolf 2009). Most tanagers, however, 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). Although a subadult and immature plumage is described for Cinnamon Tanager (Ridgely and Tudor 2009, Hilty 2011), more specific information on molt and its timing is not available for this species.

Bare Parts

Iris: reddish brown (Hilty 2011)

Bill: thick and blue gray,  with a black tip (Ridgely and Tudor 1989, 2009, Hilty 2011)

Tarsi and toes: dusky gray (Hilty 2011)


Total length: 16 cm (Isler and Isler 1987)

Mass: mean 31.2 g, range 24.1-39 g, n = 6 (Isler and Isler 1987, Marini et al. 1997, Dunning 2008)

S. r. ruficapillus Measurements:

CharacterSexMeanSD n Range
 wing lengthM83.5 A*2.746777.5-89.1
 F80.9 A2.735175.5-87.2
 tail lengthM81.7 A*2.886776.9-89.5
 F78.9 A3.075172.5-86.0
 tarsus lengthM24.3 A1.17 67 21.8-26.8 
 24.5 A 1.00 51 22.7-26.4 
 culmen length 17.5 A 0.83 66 15.7-19.2 
 17.5 A 0.96 49 15.6-19.5 
  Mass 36.9 5.43 26.0-42.5 
 37.3 4.70 30.8-45.0 

S. r. capistratus Measurements:

CharacterSexMeanSD n  Range
 wing lengthM78.3 B4.063270.4-84.8
 F75.7 B3.562868.9-81.8
 tail lengthM76.6 B4.003069.0-83.8
 F74.6 B4.762866.1-82.1
 tarsus length 23.4 B 1.18 30 21.1-25.7 
 23.1 B 1.58 28 20.4-26.4 
 culmen length 17.5 AB 0.91 32 15.4-19.0 
 17.3 AB 0.81 28 15.3-18.9 
 Mass 25.6 6.52 20.5-35.0 
 25.8 4.32 20.5-33.0 

S. r. sicki Measurements:

CharacterSexMeanSD n Range
 wing lengthM75.0 C*3.381770.3-80.8
 F70.4 C2.441866.1-78.1
 tail lengthM71.3 C*3.611764.9-78.0
 F68.0 C2.401863.1-73.6
 tarsus length22.7 B*1.01 17 20.5-24.9 
 21.9 C 0.68 18 20.5-23.0 
 culmen length16.9 B 1.00 17 15.0-18.0 
 16.7 B 0.77 18 15.5-18.4 
 Mass30.4 3.50 25.2-35.0 
 28.7 4.73 25.0-34.0

Tables 1-3. Asterisks indicate that the difference between males and females of that subspecies is significant. Different capital letters following means within the same line indicate a significant difference. Tables presented in Lopes and Gonzaga (2014).

Recommended Citation

Gonzalez, A. J., K. J. Burns, and C. H. Richart (2015). Cinnamon Tanager (Schistochlamys ruficapillus), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.