Golden-naped Tanager Tangara ruficervix

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Thraupidae
  • Polytypic: 6 subspecies
  • Authors: Laura Porturas and Kevin J. Burns


Geographic Variation

The Golden-naped Tanager has six currently recognized subspecies: Tangara ruficervix ruficervix, Tangara ruficervix taylori, Tangara ruficervix leucotis, Tangara ruficervix amabilis, Tangara ruficervix inca, and Tangara ruficervix fulvicervix (Storer 1970, Clements et al. 2010, Hilty 2011). These six subspecies can be divided into two groups. The four northern subspecies ( ruficervix, taylori, leucotis, and amabilis), which occur from Colombia south to central Peru, primarily are turquoise blue, with some violet-blue on the crown and a golden nape (Isler and Isler 1987). The two southern subspecies (inca and fulvicervix), which occur from central Peru south to Bolivia, is deeper blue, with a narrower, more rufescent nape patch (Isler and Isler 1987).

ruficervix is turquoise blue and can be distinguished by bluish white ear coverts and a black spot just below the ear coverts (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990). This subspecies is found in the Andes of Colombia and Santa Marta Mountains (Storer 1970).

taylori is turquoise blue and can be distinguished by golden spots on its ear coverts (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990); this subspecies occurs in southeastern Colombia and eastern Ecuador (Storer 1970).

leucotis is turquoise blue and can be distinguished by a larger bill and shorter wings and tail than the other subspecies (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990). It occurs in subtropical western Ecuador (Storer 1970).

amabilis is turquoise mlue and is similar to taylori but the crown is lighter and the nape is a darker gold (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990). This subspecies occurs in subtropical northern and central Peru (Storer 1970).

inca is violet-blue and has the largest bill and the palest flanks of the six subspecies (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990). It occurs in subtropical southern Peru (Storer 1970).

fulvicervix is violet-blue and is the largest of the six subspecies (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990). It occurs in the Yungas of northwestern Bolivia (Storer 1970).

Related Species

The Golden-naped Tanager is a species traditionally classified in the genus Tangara, the largest genus of all Neotropical birds (Isler and Isler 1987). Isler and Isler arranged the genus Tangara into 13 groups based on distributional, behavioral and physical features. The Golden-naped Tanager was categorized in Species Group 9 along with T. labradorides (Metallic-green Tanager) and T. cyanotis (Blue-browed Tanager). Isler and Isler (1987) describes Species Group 9 as blue or blue-green, inhabiting northern Andean forests 1400-2000 m in elevation, and forages in the tops of canopies for arthropods and fruit. Although the three species in Species Group 9 are superficially similar, phylogenetic analyses of DNA sequencing data show that group 9 is not monophyletic (Burns and Naoki 2004, Sedano and Burns 2010). T. ruficervix is only distantly related to the other two species assigned to group 9. Instead, T. ruficervix belongs to a large clade that includes 18 other species of Tangara as well as 6 other species of Thraupis (Sedano and Burns 2010). However, the exact position of T. ruficervix within this large clade is uncertain. Burns and Naoki (2004) sampled two individuals from two different populations from the same slope of the Andes in Peru. These individuals were less that 1% different from each other, a degree of DNA divergence expected within species. The dramatic difference in plumage between northern and southern subspecies, however, indicate that two species might be involved (Isler and Isler 1987), although it also is possible that amabilis (northern group) and inca (southern group) may intergrade in central Peru (Schulenberg et al. 2007). Thus, future genetic sampling should include populations from both the northern and southern parts of the range.

Recommended Citation

Porturas, L. and K. J. Burns (2012). Golden-naped Tanager (Tangara ruficervix), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.