Paradise Tanager Tangara chilensis

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Thraupidae
  • Polytypic: 4 subspecies
  • Authors: Nikki L. Berneberg and Kevin J. Burns


Distinguishing Characteristics

The Paradise Tanager is one of the most colorful of the speciose genus Tangara. Its apple-green cap, red and yellow rump, and blue abdomen are unique to the species. Its plumage varies geographically across the Amazon Basin.

Similar Species

The Paradise Tanager has plumage that is unique and one of the most colorful of all birds, although it is similar to some species such as the Green-headed Tanager (Tangara seledon) and the Seven-colored Tanager (Tangara fastuosa) (Isler and Isler 1987); there is no geographic overlap, however, between these three species. The Paradise Tanager can be distinguished from the Green-headed Tanager by its plumage:  the Paradise Tanager has a black tail, blue abdomen, blue throat, and black nape, whereas the Green-headed Tanager has a green tail, green abdomen, black throat, and green nape (Isler and Isler 1987). The Paradise Tanager can be distinguished from the Seven-colored Tanager by its plumage as well: the Paradise Tanager has black wings and tail, and blue throat, whereas the Seven-colored Tanager has blue leading edges of the primaries, and orange leading edges of the secondaries, and a black throat (Isler and Isler 1987). In the field the species also can be distinguished by calls: the call of Seven-colored Tanager is a thin ik-ik-ik, and of Green-headed Tanager is a squeaky che-eet, whereas the call of Paradise Tanager is a moderate-pitched chak-zee (Isler and Isler 1987).

Detailed Description

The Paradise Tanager has one of the most unmistakable plumages of all birds.

Adult: Sexes similar. The head is a bright light green, with a black eye-ring. Nape, upper back, wings, uppertail and undertail coverts, tail, and central belly all black. Lower back bright red in color; rump yellow or red, depending upon subspecies. Chin and throat are dark blue along with the greater primary coverts; the breast and flanks are a lighter blue. Depending upon subspecies, the upper wing coverts may be light sea-blue or dark blue.

Juvenile: Similar to that of adult. The lower back and rump are yellow or orange. The lesser wing-coverts are black instead of sea-blue. The head is green speckled with black, the chin is turquoise, and the blue of breast and flanks is more turquoise in color with some black speckling. Tarsi and toes are gray rather than black (Restall et al 2007).


In general, most tanagers only molt once a year (Isler and Isler 1987), and this prebasic molt likely occurs after the breeding season (Isler and Isler 1987, Ryder and Wolfe 2009).  However, many species have been found to breed in sub-adult plumage (Isler and Isler 1987).  In many species of Tangara, the preformative molt is partial (Ryder and Wolfe 2009).  Although a subadult plumage is described for Tangara chilensis (Isler and Isler 1987), more specific information on molt and its timing is not available for this species.

Bare Parts

Iris: brown

Bill: black

Tarsi and toes: black

Bare part color data from Restall et al. (2007).


Total length: 12-13 cm (Isler and Isler 1987)

Mass: mean 17 g (range 16 -17 g) (T. c. paradisea and T. c. coelicolor); mean 23 g (range 17 - 27 g) (T. c. chlorocorys and T. c. chilensis) (Isler and Isler 1987).  In Bolivia, Naoki (2003) recorded a mean of 21.8 g (n = 47).

Recommended Citation

Berneberg, N. L. and K. J. Burns (2011). Paradise Tanager (Tangara chilensis), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.