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Plain-colored Tanager Tangara inornata

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Thraupidae
  • Polytypic: 3 subspecies
  • Authors: Yenice Zapata and Kevin J. Burns


Distinguishing Characteristics

The Plain-colored Tanager is small leaden gray bird with blue lesser wing coverts.

Similar Species

Plain-colored Tanager is not likely to be confused with any other Tangara due to its simple colored plumage. Blue-gray (Thraupis episcopus) and Palm (Thraupis palmarum) tanagers may appear grayish in poor light and might be mistaken for a Plain-colored Tanager (Hilty and Brown 1986; Ridgely and Tudor 2009) but they are both larger, and lack the white belly (Hilty and Brown 1986). At first glance a Plain-colored Tanager also may appear similar to Sulphur-rumped Tanager (Heterospingus rubrifrons) due to their gray body plumage, but the Sulphur-rumped Tanager is larger, has a tuft of white feathers on the sides, and has a yellow rump (Ridgely and Tudor 1989).

Detailed Description

Adults: Sexes similar, although sometimes males have a slight tinge of blue on forecrown (Wetmore et al. 1984). Adults have dark gray body with dusky lores and ocular area and slightly paler rump (Wetmore et al. 1984). The belly, center of breast, and undertail coverts are white (Hilty and Brown 1986, Ridgely and Tudor 1989). Wings and tail are black. The lesser wing coverts are turquoise-blue but more dark purplish at edges (Wetmore et al. 1984, Ridgely and Tudor 1989). The foreneck, upper breast and sides are light gray.

Immature: Immatures have a faint wash yellow-brown on the belly and undertail coverts (Wetmore et al. 1984).

Juvenile: Juveniles are overall plain gray with paler breast and side, and belly. Under tail coverts are pale buff but wings and tail are black (Stiles and Skutch 1986). They also have no blue shoulders.


In general, tanagers molt once per year (Isler and Isler 1987); however, there is no specific information in the literature on molt cycles of the Plain-colored Tanager.

Bare Parts

Bill: black

Tarsi and toes: blue-gray

Bare part color data from Stiles and Skutch (1989).


Total length: 12 cm (Isler and Isler 1987)

Measurement data on Plain-colored Tanager, Tangara inornata; measurements (mm) from Wetmore et al. (1984)
 wing lengthtail length culmen (from base) tarsus 
rava, male68.5-70.0 (69.3)44.6-45.8 (45.2)10.3-10.8 (10.6)17.0-17.3 (17.2)
rava, female 65.4-69.2 (67.5)41.6-43.7 (43.0)10.9-11.5 (11.1)  17.1-18.7 (17.7)
languens, male67.4-71.4 (68.8)43.4-47.4 (45.6)11.0-11.6 (11.1) 16.0-17.1 (16.6)
languens, female 65.1-68.5 (66.6) 42.2-45.4 (43.1) 10.4-11.5 (10.9)  15.8-17.1 (16.6)
inornata, male --- --- --- ---
inornata, female --- --- --- ---

Mass: sexes combined, mean 18 g (range 16.4–19.1 g, n= 13; Isler and Isler 1987)

Recommended Citation

Zapata, Y. and K. J. Burns (2011). Plain-colored Tanager (Tangara inornata), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.