Golden Tanager Tangara arthus

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


Geographic Variation

There are nine recognized subspecies (Storer 1970, Clements et al. 2009) that vary in location and appearance; each has the same black markings with variations in the golden hue of their feathers.

  • Tangara arthus arthus – See Detailed Description. Occurs in the Andes and coastal cordilleras of northern Venezuela (Storer 1970).

    Tangara arthus palmitae - Similar to aurulenta, but has "paler, less orange, under parts; yellowish green instead of golden yellow stripes on the back; and yellower, less orange, crown" (Meyer de Schauensee 1947). Also similar to goodsoni, but bill "decidedly smaller" and "stripes on back greener" (Meyer de Schauensee 1947). Known with certainty only from the northern end of the western slope (eastern Magdalena valley) of the eastern Andes of Colombia (Hilty and Brown 1986).

    Tangara arthus sclateri – The underparts are "nearly uniform reddish brown (almost amber brown), much deeper than the raw sienna of C. a. occidentalis or the golden aniline yellow of C. a. aurulenta and C. a. goodsoni" (Hellmayr 1936). Occurs on both slopes of the eastern Andes of Colombia, and on the Macarena Mountains, Colombia (Storer 1970, Hilty and Brown 1986).

  • Tangara arthus aurulenta - The underparts are golden yellow or yellow ochre. Occurs in the Perijá mountains of Venezuela and Colombia, on the eastern slope of the Central Andes of Colombia, and at the southern end (Cundinamarca, Huila) of the western slope of the eastern Andes of Colombia (Hilty and Brown 1986, Hilty 2003).

    Tangara arthus occidentalis - Similar to aurulenta, but "under parts more richly colored, approaching raw sienna rather than golden aniline yellow; edges to dorsal feathers darker, cadmium yellow like the crown instead of paler; those of wing coverts and secondaries decidedly golden yellow, not greenish" (Hellmayr 1936). Occurs in western Colombia, in the western Andes and on the west slope of the central Andes (Storer 1970, Hilty and Brown 1986).

    Tangara arthus goodsoni – Similar both to occidentalis and to aurulenta. Most closely resembles occidentalis, but "crown decidedly paler, less deeply cadmium yellow; rump clearer yellow; under parts less brownish, golden aniline yellow as in C. a. aurulenta. ... [Otherwise] nearer to C. a. aurulenta in the coloration of the ventral surface, while the upper part of the head is paler, less orange than in either" (Hellmayr 1936). Occurs in western Ecuador (Storer 1970, Ridgely and Greenfield 2001).

    Tangara arthus aequatorialis – Similar to both pulchra and to goodsoni. Differs from goodsoni by "more extensively black loral region and chin-spot, green margins to wing-coverts and secondaries, much more orange upper part of the head, [and] the orange tinge on throat and foreneck" (Hellmayr 1936). Differs from pulchra by "lacking the well-defined chestnut gular patch, the throat and foreneck being instead washed with xanthine orange or dull orange rufous, this color passing gradually into the golden yellow of the belly" (Hellmayr 1936). Occurs in the eastern Andes of Ecuador and northern Peru, north of the Río Marañón (Storer 1970, Ridgely and Greenfield 2001. Schulenberg et al. 2007).

    Tangara arthus pulchra – Crown and breast tawny-rufous. Occurs in the eastern Andes of Peru from Amazonas south to Junín (Schulenberg et al. 2007.

    Tangara arthus sophiae - Similar to pulchra, but "the top of the head, sides of neck, subocular region, and rump much paler, light cadmium rather than cadmium yellow; edges to dorsal feathers more greenish yellow; black auricular patch larger; chestnut gular patch duller; breast and abdomen less orange, nearer to aniline yellow" (Hellmayr 1936). Occurs on the eastern slope of the Andes from central Peru (Cuzco) south to Santa Cruz, Bolivia (Storer 1970, Hennessey et al. 2003).

Related Species

The Golden Tanager is a member of the genus Tangara, which contains 49 species of tanagers. This makes it the largest genus of tanagers. Tangara is divided into 13 species groups based on vocalizations, diet, distributions, and appearance (Isler and Isler 1999). The Golden Tanager, together with eight other species, is in Species Group 5. The composition of Species Group 5, including Tangara arthus, is confirmed by molecular sequence data (Burns and Naoki 2004, Sedano and Burns 2010). Within Group 5, the Golden Tanager is the sister species to a clade containing the Emerald and Silver-throated tanagers (Burns and Naoki 2004, Sedano and Burns 2010). These three species occur in the Andes; therefore, relatively recent speciation events within the Andes likely caused their divergence (Burns and Naoki 2004).

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.