The Multicolored Tanager is endemic to the Colombia, with disjunct populations in the sub-Andean forests of both slopes of the West and Central Andes separated by the Río Cauca Valley (Ridgely and Tudor 1989, Voss et al. 2002, Hilty 2011, Chaparro-Herrera et al. 2013, Fierro-Calderón and Johnston-González 2014). This species occurs in the Northern Andes Zoogeographical Regions and is considered an element of the North Andean Center of Endemism (Cracraft 1985, Parker et al. 1996). In the West Andes they perhaps occur as far north as the northern slope near the southern edge of Antioquia, south along the eastern border of Chocó and the western borders of Risaralda and northern Valle del Cauca, south through western Valle de Cauca to the Serranía de los Churumbelos in Cauca near the Nariño border (Donegan and Salaman 1999, Cuervo et al. 2008a, Chaparro-Herrera et al. 2013). In the Central Andes they primarily occur along the western slope extending from northern Caldas near the Antioquia border, south through eastern Risaralda into Quindío (Hilty and Brown 1986, Cuervo et al. 2008a). Range estimates include an historical estimate of 67,723 km2, potential modeled range of 50,568 km2, current estimated ranges spanning from 34,498 km2 to 16,922 km2, and current estimates refined by elevation and appropriate habitat of 2,125 km2 and 3,701 km2 (Graham et al. 2010, Renjifo et al. 2014, Ocampo-Peñuela and Pimm 2014, Ocampo-Peñuela 2016, BirdLife International 2019). Their may be seasonal and local migration within this species associated with fruit availability (Fierro-Calderón and Johnston-González 2014). Their center of elevational abundance is in the Upper Tropical Zone from 1400 m to 2000 m, within reported range limits of 900 m to 2200 m (Hellmayr 1911, Hilty and Brown 1986, Willis 1988, Parker et al. 1996, Renifo 1999, Sander 2005, Kattan et al. 2006, Restall et al. 2006, Cuervo et al. 2008a, Cuervo et al 2008b, Aköz 2013, Fierro-Calderón and Johnston-González 2014, Ocampo-Peñuela and Pimm 2014, Gómez-Hoyos et al. 2018).
Distribution outside the Americas
The Multicolored Tanager is endemic to Colombia.
Multicolored Tanagers are restricted to humid sub-Andean forests of Colombia in the Subtropical Zone (Renjifo et al. 1997, Aköz 2013, Fierro-Calderón and Johnston-González 2014). Parker et al. (1996) lists the primary habitat as the montane evergreen forest. They are primarily found within the interior of humid pristine and mature forests (Angarita and Renifo 2002, Mendoza 2007, Cuervo et al 2008b, Marín-Gómez et al. 2009, Morales-Zuñinga 2012), as well as at forest edges, riparian forests, and tree-fall gaps (Angarita and Renifo 2002, Cuervo et al. 2008b, Marín-Gómez et al. 2009, Gómez-Hoyos et al. 2018). They are typically rare to absent in sub-optimal habitats such as corridors, young regenerated forests, and forest fragments and are sensitive to human disturbances and forest fragmentation (Renjifo 1999, Kattan et al. 2006, Marín-Gómez et al. 2009, Gómez-Hoyos et al. 2018). In and around Reserva Natural Bremen-La Popa, abundance has been estimated at 2.05 individuals per hectare in mature forests, while only 0.79 individuals per hectare in secondary forests (Gómez-Hoyos et al. 2018). They have also been reported from forest plantations such as urapán, secondary forests, and clearings with a few large trees left standing (Hilty and Brown 1986, Angarita and Renifo 2002, Lentijo and Kattan 2005, Marín-Gómez et al. 2009, BirdLife International 2019). Within forests they typically occur from middle strata and the lower sub-canopy to the canopy (Miller 1963, Hilty 1985, Parker et al. 1996, Angarita and Renifo 2002, Lentijo and Kattan 2005, Marín-Gómez et al. 2009, Gómez-Hoyos et al. 2018), less commonly using the understory (Willis 1988). More specific reporting has them at about 12.5 m (∓ 10.6 m) high, typically within the canopy of mature forests (Lentijo and Kattan 2005).
Local population extirpation associated with habitat loss has been severe in the Multicolored Tanager, with 79.3% of total habitat lost, 12% of which was estimated lost in the decade from 2000-2010 (Renifo et al. 2014). Otherwise, this species is not known to have a contracting, expanding, or shifting range.