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R. flammigerus is found in some regions of Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, and a small region in northwestern Peru. The Flame-rumped Tanager is mainly a resident throughout its range, with the exception of the Canal Zone area, where it is perhaps only seasonal since it is rarely seen (Restall et al. 2007). It is restricted to the lowlands and mostly occurs below 1500 m; in Colombia it occurs from 800 to 2000 m (Meyer de Schauensee 1966) and rarely to 2100 m (Hilty and Brown 1986). Its center of elevational abundance is in the lower tropical zone (Parker et al. 1996). This species occurs in the following Zoogeographic Regions: Gulf-Caribbean Slope, Chocó Lowlands and Northern South America (Parker et al. 1996).
Distribution outside the Americas
Endemic to the Americas.
The primary habitat of Ramphocelus flammigerus is the edge of tropical lowland evergreen forest, but it is also commonly found in secondary forest and second-growth scrub (Parker et al. 1996). R. flammigerus commonly occupies humid lowlands, including shrubby clearings, gardens and forest or woodland borders (Isler and Isler 1987). R. f. icteronotus are especially numerous in Pacific lowlands (Ridgely and Tudor 1989).
No historical changes in the range of the Flame-rumped Tanager are well documented, although the different distribution of the two subspecies led to ongoing debate on whether they should be considered a full species or two separate species (Meyer de Schauensee 1966). The two forms had been separated by forest but deforestatation has allowed their ranges to expand, and they recently came into contact in the 20th century (Restall et al. 2007).