Masked Flowerpiercer Diglossa cyanea

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Thraupidae
  • Polytypic: 5 subspecies
  • Authors: Steven Byrum, Erik R. Funk, Casey H. Richart, and Kevin J. Burns


Geographic Variation

Currently five subspecies of Diglossa cyanea are recognized (Dickinson and Christidis 2014, Clements et al. 2015). These subspecies differ mainly in plumage color intensity:

tovarensis, described as Diglossa cyanea tovarensis Zimmer and Phelps 1952; type locality Colonia Tovar, Aragua, Venezuela. This subspecies occurs in the coastal cordillera of northern Venezuela (Storer 1970). Its plumage is described as being less violaceous than nominate cyanea (Zimmer and Phelps 1952). It appears similar to dispar, but with a more restricted mask around the chin and forehead (Zimmer and Phelps 1952). It has been further described as brighter and paler blue, especially on the forecrown, showing more contrast against the black mask than nominate cyanea (Restall et al. 2007). Females resemble cyanea, but have brighter and more extensive blue on their heads, while juveniles appear duller blue on top with gray plumage below (Restall et al. 2007).

obscura, described as Diglossa cyanea obscura Phelps and Phelps 1952; type locality Cerro Tamuypejocha, Río Negro, Sierra de Perijá, Venezuela. Occurs in the Sierra de Perijá, on the border of Venezuela and Colombia (Storer 1970). It is darker blue than nominate cyanea (Phelps and Phelps 1952).

cyanea, described as Uncirostrum cyaneum Lafresnaye 1840; type locality Santa-Fé de Bogota [Colombia]. The nominate subspecies occurs in the Andes of western Venezuela, all three Andean ranges in Colombia, and in Ecuador, except in the far southwest (Storer 1970). See Detailed Description.

dispar, described as Diglossa cyanea dispar Zimmer 1942; type locality Chugur, Cajamarca, Peru. This subspecies occurs in the Andes of southwestern Ecuador and northwestern Peru. It has a more greenish tinge to its plumage compared to nominate cyanea (Restall et al. 2007).

melanopis, described as D.[iglossa] melanopis Tschudi 1844; type locality Peru, restricted to the Junín region (Hellmayr 1935). This subspecies occurs in the Andes of Peru, except for the northwest, and Bolivia, south to Santa Cruz (Storer 1970, Remsen et al. 1987). Subspecies melanopis is slightly larger than the other subspecies, as well as darker and duller than nominate cyanea, with the blue outer margins of the tertial feathers less sharply outlined (Hilty 2011).

Related Species

Masked Flowerpiercer belongs to the tanager family Thraupidae, within the diverse subfamily Diglossinae, which consists of 64 species, most of which occur at high elevations (Burns et al. 2014). There are 14 genera in this subfamily, including the flowerpiercer genus, Diglossa, which includes 18 species (Burns et al. 2014). Previous taxonomies have placed Diglossa in Coerebidae (honeycreepers), Parulidae (New World Warblers), or Emberizidae (American Sparrows) (Burns et al. 2003). However, DNA analyses clearly indicate Diglossa flowerpiercers are tanagers (Burns et al. 2014). Within tanagers, Catamenia is sister to the genus Diglossa (Burns et al. 2014). Although Masked Flowerpiercer has sometimes been placed in the genus Diglossopis, Mauck and Burns (2009) found this genus to be non-monophyletic and thus its use is unwarranted.

Vuilleumier (1969) subdivided Diglossa into 4 species groupings mostly based on morphological features, with Masked Flowerpiercer placed in the caerulescens group along with D. caerulescens (Bluish Flowerpiercer), D. glauca (Deep-blue Flowerpiercer), and D. indigotica (Indigo Flowerpiercer), due to the shared characteristics of blue plumage, poorly marked sexual dimorphism, and relatively unspecialized bills. These four species made up the genus Diglossopis; recent phylogenetic analyses of DNA sequence data have established this grouping as non-monophyletic due to the position of Indigo Flowerpiercer (D. indigotica). Masked Flowerpiercer is the sister species to Bluish Flowerpiercer (D. caerulescens), with strong support. These species form a clade which is the sister taxon to Deep-blue Flowerpiercer (D. glauca) (Mauck and Burns 2009, Burns et al. 2014).

Recommended Citation

Byrum, S., E. R. Funk, C. H. Richart, and K. J. Burns (2017). Masked Flowerpiercer (Diglossa cyanea), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.