Green-and-gold Tanager is a medium size tanager. As the English name suggests, its plumage is primarily green and yellow, and also is extensively marked with black. The upperparts are mostly bright green, streaked with black; the crown and rump are yellow. Green-and-gold Tanager is a black face mask, formed by a black forecrown, ocular ring, and a broad black patch behind the eye; this mask is interrupted by a small wedge of bright turquoise in front of the eye. The underparts also are green, with bright yellow in the center of the breast and belly. The sexes are slightly dimorphic; the female is similar to male but slightly duller, with a green crown, and a greenish wash on the rump.
Green-and-gold Tanager is sympatric with several other species of superficially similar green and yellow tanagers, such as Dotted Tanager (Ixothraupis varia), Speckled Tanager (Ixothraupis guttata), Yellow-bellied Tanager (Ixothraupis xanthogastra), and Spotted Tanager (Ixothraupis punctata), but Green-and-gold is distinguished from all by its black mask and (in the male) yellow crown.
Green-and-gold Tanager is more similar to Blue-whiskered Tanager (Tangara johannae) and to Emerald Tanager (Tangara florida), although both species occur west of the Andes and so are completely allopatric to Green-and-gold. The black face of Blue-whiskered Tanager also extends to the throat, and this species also has a brilliant blue submoustachial streak. Emerald Tanager has a prominent black patch on the auriculars, but the forecrown and area around the eye are green or greenish yellow, so it lacks the black mask of Green-and-gold Tanager.
Adult male: Forecrown, base of bill, narrow streak above eye, and large patch on side of head behind eye all black, forming a broad mask; narrow crescent of bright turquoise just before the eye (so embedded within the mask), and the mask is bordered posteriorly with a narrow, bright turquoise margin. Crown bright yellow. Nape bright green, flecked with black; back bright green, streaked with black. Rump and uppertail coverts bright yellow, faintly washed with green. Rectrices blackish, narrowly margined with green to greenish blue. Wings black; lesser and median coverts edged and tipped with turquoise blue, outermost primary coverts edged with turquoise blue, inner primary coverts edged with bright green; primaries also edged with turquoise, secondaries and tertials edged with bright green. Chin black. Upper throat, sides of breast, and flanks bright emerald green; lower throat, and center of breast and of belly, bright yellow. Undertail coverts dull green or buff mixed with dull green.
Adult female: Similar to male, but slightly duller. Crown greenish, flecked with black, and the rump is greener, less extensively yellow.
Juvenile: Dull grayish brown (Hilty 2011).
Immature: Similar to adult, but much duller (Hilty 2011).
In general, most tanagers only molt once a year (Isler and Isler 1999), and this prebasic molt likely occurs after the breeding season (Isler and Isler 1999, Ryder and Wolfe 2009). Molts are not described for Green-and-gold Tanager. In the few other species of Tangara for which molts are known, such as Paradise Tanager (Tangara chilensis) and Bay-headed Tanager (Tangara gyrola), molts follow the Complex Basic Strategy; the Preformative Molt is partial or incomplete (sensu Pyle 1997), and the Definitive Prebasic Molt is complete (Johnson and Wolfe 2018). Willard et al. (1991) reported body molt from two out of three specimens (age class?) in March in Venezuela.
Iris: dark brown
Tarsi and toes: gray
Bare parts color data from Willard et al. (1991).
Total length: 12 cm (Isler and Isler 1999), 12.7 cm (Hilty 2003), 13.5 cm (Ridgely and Tudor 2009).
Mass: mean 19 g (range 14.0-23.0 g, n = 35, sexes combined; Isler and Isler 1987). Male, 21.5 g (n = 1; Weske 1972).