The background color of the Golden-eared Tanager is lime green or opalescent green. The crown and malar are black, and the back also is streaked with black. A distinctive feature is the coppery-gold color of the auriculars, from which the Golden-eared Tanager derives both its common name and specific epithet. The belly and undertail coverts are cinnamon-rufous.
Golden-eared Tanagers has a distinctive plumage pattern and usually are easily identifiable. Similar species include the Metallic-green Tanager (Tangara labradorides), the distribution of which overlaps with that of the Golden-eared Tanager in southern Ecuador and northern Peru (Ridgely and Tudor 1989, 2009). The Metallic-green Tanager is a duller version of the Golden-eared Tanager. It lacks the black stripes on the back and the coppery gold auriculars. The belly of the Metallic-green Tanager is much paler, closer to cinnamon-buff rather than the deeper cinnamon-rufous of Golden-eared Tanager (Meyer de Schauensee 1964, Ridgely and Tudor 1989). Another tanager potentially mistaken for the Golden-eared Tanager is the Saffron-crowned Tanager (Tangara xanthocephala). Like the Golden-eared Tanager, the Saffron-crowned Tanager is occurs in the Andes of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia (Ridgely and Tudor 2009). This tanager shares the same opalescent green body plumage as the Golden-eared Tanager. However, unlike the Golden-eared Tanager, the Saffron-crowned Tanager's head is yellow (Restall et al. 2007).
Adult male: The predominant color is opalescent green. The crown and nape are black, as are the lores and a narrow malar stripe. Supercilium opalescent green. Auriculars and forecrown coppery-gold. The back is streaked with black and opalescent green. Rump and uppertail coverts are opalescent green, unstreaked. Wings and tail black, feathers edged with opalescent green. Chin and throat are pale yellow-green. Breast and flanks are opalescent green. Belly to undertail coverts are cinnamon-rufous.
Adult female: Most sources indicate, at least implicitly, that the sexes are similar (e.g. Hilty and Brown 1986, Isler and Isler 1999, Ridgely and Greenfield 2001, Schulenberg et al. 2007). Restall et al. (2007), however, describe the female as paler, with upperparts that are "pallid version" of the male, and vent and undertail coverts "pale greenish-buff".
Juvenile: Beryl green above. Lacks the black crown, but has black streaks from forehead to nape. Ear coverts yellowish. Underparts are light opalescent green, suffused with buffy from the center of the breast to the vent (Restall et al 2007).
In general, most tanagers only molt once a year (Isler and Isler 1999), and this prebasic molt likely occurs afterthe breeding season (Isler and Isler 1999, Ryder and Wolfe 2009). However, many species have been found to breed in sub-adult plumage (Isler and Isler 1999). In many species of Tangara, the preformative molt is partial (Ryder and Wolfe 2009). More specific data on molt is not available for Tangara chrysotis.
Tarsi and toes: gray
Bare parts color data from Parker and Parker (1982) and Remsen (1984).
Total length: 14 cm (Hilty and Brown 1986, Isler and Isler 1999, Ridgely and Greenfield 2001).
Mass (sex unknown): mean 25.2 g, SD = 1.7, n = 10 (Naoki 2003); mean 24 g (range 23.0-25.5 g; n = 4) (Isler and Isler 1999); males (n = 4), mean 24.0 g (range 23.0-25.5 g; Remsen 1984), females (n =4), mean 24.2 g (range 23-26.7 g) (Remsen 1984).