There has been no analysis of geographic variation in M. chrysopterus since Snow (1979), and no studies of population genetics or phylogenetics for these subspecies. There are five recognized subspecies based on minor plumage variations, but descriptions of occipital crest variation occasionally conflict, leading to suggestions that some subspecies may not be valid (e.g. Hellmayr 1929, Kirwan and Green 2012). Subspecies ranges are from Snow (1979).
subspecies bellus, described as Masius chrysopterus bellus Hartert and Hellmayr 1903; type locality Ríolima, 4000 feet [1219 m], Valle del Cauca, Colombia.
Occurs on the west slope of the Western Andes and both slopes of the Central Andes (along the upper Río Cauca) in Colombia.
Reportedly is "similar to M. c. coronulatus, but the thick flattened horny ends of the crest english red (instead of tobacco brown, glossed with golden brown apically" (Hellmayr 1929), but Hellmayr also noted that two specimens from within the range of bellus "can hardly be distinguished from certain dark-crested examples of coronulatus". Meyer de Schauensee (1945) suggested that coronulatus, in which the nape is dark brown, is merely a subadult plumage of the same population as bellus (see Molts); if this were to be confirmed, then bellus would be a junior synonym of coronulatus.
nominate chrysopterus, described as Pipra chrysoptera Lafresnaye 1843; type locality Santa Fé de Bogotá, Colombia
Occurs on the east slope of the Central Andes of Colombia, and the west slope of Eastern Andes in Colombia, extending northeastwards to the Andes of western Venezuela.
The feathers of the rear crown and nape are broadly tipped with orange-red.
subspecies coronulatus, described as Masius coronulatus Sclater 1860; type locality Nanegal, Pichincha, Ecuador
Occurs on the south end of the west slope of the Western Andes of Colombia (in southwestern Cauca and in Nariño), and in western Ecuador south to El Oro (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001a) and Loja.
Feathers of the rear crown and nape reddish brown (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001b).
subspecies pax, described as Masius chrysopterus pax Meyer de Schauensee 1952; type locality Cerro Pax, east slope of the Andes of Nariño, near headwaters of Río San Miguel, Colombia
Occurs on the east slope of the Andes of southeastern Colombia south through east slope of the Andes of Ecuador.
Described as having (in the male) a darker black body plumage, darker yellow on the throat, tail, and wings, and the rear crown and nape are red (Meyer de Schauensee 1952) or "flame orange" (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001b). The female (sample size of one!) has a darker yellow throat patch than female of chrysopterus or peruvianus (Meyer de Schauensee 1952).
subspecies peruvianus, described as Masius chrysopterus peruvianus Carriker 1934; type locality Chaupe, 6000 feet [1829 m], Cajamarca, Peru
Occurs on the east slope of the Andes of northern Peru, from northern Cajamarca (north of the Río Marañón) south to northwestern San Martín, Peru (south of the Río Marañón) (Schulenberg et al. 2010).
Described as similar to nominate chrysopterus, but in the male the yellow of the throat, wings, and tail are a deeper, richer yellow; rear crown and nape are darker red (crimson instead of scarlet); the frontal plumes are more vertical, and are shorter; the female is described as "more yellowish olive below (less grayish olive) and slightly richer and brighter olive green above" (Carriker 1934). Meyer de Schauensee (1952, 1953), however, considered peruvianus to be "barely separable", on the basis of a "slightly less deep black" body plumage, the crest being "a trifle darker", and darker yellow on the throat (but not the wings or tail, contra Carriker 1934), and the female not to differ at all. The type series of peruvianus is very small (two adult males, one immature male, and one female), and was compared to only a slightly larger series of chrysopterus (five males, 6 females); Meyer de Schauensee (1945) pointed out that of these, two male and four chrysopterus were specimens that were very old and faded.