Microhabitat for foraging: As the Emerald Tanager often is associated with mixed-species flocks, niche specialization has been observed in regards to foraging areas. Niche partitioning occurs by elevational segregation and foraging on branches differing in size (Isler and Isler 1987), and amount of moss covering them (Naoki 2003). The Emerald Tanager utilizes branches in the range of 1.3 to 2.5 cm in diameter (73 of 97 observations; Hilty cited in Isler and Isler 1987). More than 90% of its foraging time is spent on moss or partially-moss covered branches (Naoki 2003).
Seldom seen interacting on the ground, on one occasion an Emerald Tanager was seen calling and foraging with three Sooty-headed Wrens (Pheugopedius spadix), a Bicolored Antbird (Gymnopithys bicolor), and ten Silver-throated Tanagers (Tangara icterocephala) 0.3-2.5 m above a swarm of army ants (Hilty 1974). Army ants, typically not found above 1000 m elevation, are most likely rarely used by Emerald Tanagers (Hilty 1974).
Food capture and consumption: Isler and Isler (1987) indicate the typical foraging attack mode is the diagonal-lean method. Naoki (2003) quantified percent time using a variety of foraging modes when searching for arthropod prey (see chart below). This species specializes in searching for arthropods in moss, with 60% of observations occurring in moss covered branches and 36% of obsevations occurring on partially-moss-covered branches (Naoki 2003). The Emerald Tanager occasionally even tearx moss apart to get to potential prey (Hilty cited in Isler and Isler 1987). When searching for fruit, a variety of attack modes are also used, the most prominent being glean (48%), reach-out (18%), reach-down (15%), and reach-up (9%).
Locomotion: Generally behavior is active, sometimes moving excitedly while foraging (Hilty 1974).