The Golden-naped Tanager is one of many colorful members of the speciose genus Tangara. The plumage is mostly turquoise or violet blue (depending on the subspecies) with tawny flanks and belly and a black face mask. On the hindcrown, some subspecies have a golden patch, giving rise to the English name for the species. In other subspecies, this patch is reddish, reflecting the specific epithet ruficervix ("red nape"). The species is found in the central and northern Andes in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. Across this distribution, the species varies in plumage, and six subspecies are recognized. The Golden-naped Tanager is omnivorous and eats arthropods, fruit, Müllerian bodies, and nectar. Like many tanagers, they can be found in pairs or small groups but also take part in interspecific flocks.