Notice for readers: On March 31, Neotropical Birds will be integrated into the new Birds of the World, a powerful research database offering species accounts for every species on earth. Learn more at While Birds of the World is a subscription service, we remain committed to offering this content to Neotropical Birds contributors and to those unable to pay for it through our scholarship program. Stay tuned.

Gray-headed Tanager Eucometis penicillata

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Thraupidae
  • Polytypic: 7 subspecies
  • Authors: Carly S. Baker and Kevin J. Burns

The Gray-headed Tanager (Eucometis penicillata) is the only member of the genus Eucometis. It is a lowland tanager consisting of seven subspecies that are found primarily in forested habitats from southern Mexico to northern Paraguay. Its plumage is a yellowish olive over much of its body, with a conspicuous gray head and crest. These tanagers have somewhat conical bills with a large, rounded notch on the upper mandible. They have adapted to several different ways of life and habitats; their diet includes fruit and insects, and they are known to follow army ant swarms to feed on insects escaping from the ants, particularly north and west of the Andes. The Gray-headed Tanager is capable of living at least ten years (Willis 1985), usually travels in pairs and spends most of its time in the dense forest understory. It often occurs in mixed-species flocks, particularly east of the Andes. The conservation status of the Gray-headed Tanager is assessed by the IUCN as  of Least Concern; however, there is little information on the populations and demography of the species.

Song (Gray-crested)

© David L. Ross, Jr.

  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding

Recommended Citation

Baker, C. S. and K. J. Burns (2010). Gray-headed Tanager (Eucometis penicillata), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.