Rufous-winged Tanager Tangara lavinia

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Thraupidae
  • Polytypic: 3 subspecies
  • Authors: Geramie Grande and Kevin J. Burns


Distinguishing Characteristics

The Rufous-winged Tanager is a small tanager of the genus Tangara, about 12 cm in length. The predominant colors are green and rufous. The male is mostly green with bright brick red or chestnut crown and wings, golden yellow nape and upper back, and blue belly. The female is somewhat duller than the male, and the rufous of the wings is less brightly colored .

Similar Species

The Bay-headed Tanager (Tangara gyrola) and Rufous-winged Tanager resemble each other. However, the Rufous-winged Tanager is brighter in color and has the bright brick red color on its wings, whereas the Bay-headed Tanager does not. Immatures of both species also are visually similar, but even immature Rufous-winged Tanagers have traces of rufous on the wings (Hilty and Brown 1986). Though the rufous on females and immatures are not as apparent as in the males, a patch of rufous usually shows on at least the flight feathers  (Ridgley and Greenfield 2001). The Rufous-winged Tanager and the Bay-headed Tanager are behaviorally similar, though they are not found together in Ecuador (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001). However, in other parts of the distribution, the Bay-headed Tanager and Rufous-winged Tanager often occur together, though the Bay-headed always seems to outnumber the Rufous-winged (Ridgley and Gwynne 1989).

Detailed Description

Adult male: The adult male is bright green overall, with bright brick red wings, back, and head. The nape and back are golden yellow, and the mid-throat and mid-belly are blue (Ridgely and Tudor 2009).

Adult female: Female is much duller than male, with no yellow on the back. Often shows little rufous on wings, though there is almost always a patch on the flight feathers (Ridgley and Greenfield 2001). Females show very little, or completely lack, rufous on the head (Ridgely and Tudor 2009). Females may look mostly green-bodied, but with a rufous wing patch (Ridgley and Tudor 1989). The green plumage of females is much duller than males, and is also darker above and paler below (Stiles and Skutch 1989).

Immature: The young resemble the adult female, though duller in appearance. The blue belly is mixed with dull white, and the crissum is a pale yellow color. The head of the immature male is brighter and the wings are more reddish-bronze (Stiles and Skutch 1989).


Light body molt was reported on a female specimen in early July. A male from the same site, on the other hand, was experiencing replacement of an abundant amount of body feathers, two pairs of primaries, and one pair of secondaries (Foster 1974). In general, most tanagers only molt once a year (Isler and Isler 1987), and this prebasic molt likely occurs afterthe 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 lavinia (Isler and Isler 1987), more specific information on molt and its timing is not available for this species.

Bare Parts

The following bare part colors are taken from Restall et al. (2007):

Iris: dark brown

Bill: maxilla brow; mandible yellowish horn

Tarsi and toes: vinaceous gray


Total length: 12-13.2 cm (Isler and Isler 1999, Restall et al. 2007)

Measurements (mean, range) of Rufous-winged Tanager (Tangara lavinia) in mm (Wetmore et. al 1984):

subspecieswing lengthtail lengthtarsus lengthculmen from base n
dalmasi, male72.4 (70.5-75.5)43.5 (41.0-46.0) 15.8 (14.3-17.0) 12.4 (11.0-13.4)9
dalmasi, female66.2 (65.0-67.3)38.5 (37.7-39.2) 15.9 (15.5-16.2) 12.62
lavinia, male67.0 (62.9-71.0)41.3 (39.6-43.0) 15.4 (13.6-17.3) 11.0 (9.7-12.2)10
lavnia, female65.6 (64.6-66.9)39.3 (36.8-41.3) 14.7 (13.6-16.3) 11.0 (10.3-12.2)5

Recommended Citation

Grande, G. and K. J. Burns (2012). Rufous-winged Tanager (Tangara lavinia), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.