Golden Tanager Tangara arthus

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Thraupidae
  • Polytypic: 9 subspecies
  • Authors: Jennifer Lauren Cameron and Kevin J. Burns


Distinguishing Characteristics

The Golden Tanager is an averaged-sized member of the genus Tangara. As the name suggests, it is a golden-colored bird, patterned on the head, throat, and chest with chestnut, cinnamon-yellow, and shades of gold. It has a black-streaked back, black ear coverts, and black wings and tail. The plumage markings are similar to those of the Emerald Tanager (Tangara florida) and Silver-throated Tanager (Tangara icterocephala), but differs from these two species in coloration. The Emerald Tanager primarily is green, whereas the Silver-throated Tanager is predominantly yellow with a whitish throat.

Similar Species

The Golden Tanager could be confused with the Silver-throated Tanager (Tangara icterocephala) or the Emerald Tanager (Tangara florida). The Silver-throated Tanager is more of a yellowish color compared to the Golden Tanager which is golden, yellow ochre, or yellow orange. The throat of the Silver-throated Tanager is white, not golden or chestnut as in the Golden Tanager. The Silver-throated Tanager also has a black malar stripe, and lacks the black ear coverts of the Golden Tanager. The Emerald Tanager is mostly a bright emerald green with a yellowish crown. All three species have a streaked black back as well as black wings and tails. The wings of the Golden and Silver-throated tanagers are edged with yellow, while the wings of the Emerald Tanager are green (Hilty and Brown 1986).

Detailed Description

Adult: Sexes similar. Geographically variable. The following description refers to nominate arthus of Venezuela; see Geographic Variation for characterizations of other subspecies. The head, nape and throat are golden yellow, with a narrow black line over the bill and black auriculars. The upper black is golden yellow, streaked with black; the lower back and rump are golden yellow. Wings black, wing coverts and inner remiges narrowly margined with yellow. Broad chestnut breast band, which extends down along the flanks; lower breast and belly golden yellow. Tail mostly black.

Juveniles: Around 17 days the juveniles are well feathered and are only missing the black ear coverts which appear bare. Their plumages are grayer in coloration but otherwise mimic the adult’s. After 28 days the juveniles appear more similar to the adults in coloration, but are still dull. The juvenile’s bill and tarsi are gray (Ciarpaglini 1971).


No information.


The following weights are for males and females (Isler and Isler 1999).

NumberMeanMin. Weight (g)Max. Weight (g)

The recorded lengths for the species are from (Ridgely and Tudor 1989).

Length Min. (cm)Length Max. (cm)

Recommended Citation

Cameron, J. L. and K. J. Burns (2010). Golden Tanager (Tangara arthus), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.