Seven-colored Tanager is arguably one of the most colorful birds found in the speciose genus Tangara. The unique color pattern of Seven-colored Tanager includes a turquoise green head, a bright blue breast, and pale turquoise blue wingcoverts with broad orange edging on the tertials, and a bright orange lower back and rump.
Seven-colored Tanager has a unique and colorful plumage that differentiates it from most other birds, although it is similar to both Green-headed Tanager (Tangara seledon) and Paradise Tanager (Tangara chilensis) (Isler and Isler 1987). Under natural conditions, however, there is no geographic overlap between these three species. Seven-colored Tanager can be distinguished readily from Green-headed and Paradise tanagers by its plumage. Paradise Tanager has a black tail, blue abdomen, blue throat, and black nape, and Green-headed Tanager has a green tail, green abdomen, black throat, and green nape (Isler and Isler 1987). Seven-colored Tanager can be differentiated from these two species by the blue leading edges of the primaries, orange leading edges of the secondaries, black throat, and bright orange rump (Isler and Isler 1987).
As its name suggests, Seven-colored Tanager is a multi-colored and intricately patterned tanager. It has a dark black ocular ring and line around the bill but the rest of the head is a bright shining turquoise (Meyer de Schaunesee 1970, Hilty 2011). The turquoise coloring continues onto the hindneck and upper throat where it meets black (Hilty 2011). The mantle and scapulars are black and, in addition, the lower throat is black (Hilty 2011). The black on the lower throat extends in a narrow line around the sides of the neck and connects with the black on the back (Hilty 2011). The lower back, rump, edges of inner secondaries, and uppertail coverts are all a bright orange yellow (Sick 1993, Hilty 2011). When the bird is perched, this area has the appearance of an orange triangle just above the tail (Sick 1993). The chest is a light blue color that fades into a deep ultramarine blue on the belly (Ridgely and Tudor 2009, Hilty 2011). This ultramarine blue also is present on the undertail coverts and the edges of the black tail and wing feathers (Hilty 2011). The lesser upper wing coverts are turquoise, the median coverts are cobalt blue, and the greater coverts are black with violet blue edges (Meyer de Schaunesee 1970, Hilty 2011). Males and females of this species appear similar in appearance (Hilty 2011). However, the species is dichromatic when quantified using a model of avian vision (Burns and Shultz 2012). Thus, birds can distinguish between males and females, but humans are unable to see these differences.
Juvenile and immature plumages are undescribed.
Tanagers that have been studied have either a Complex Basic Strategy or Complex Alternative Strategy (Ryder and Wolfe 2009). However, 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). Many species have been found to breed in subadult plumage (Isler and Isler 1987). In many species of Tangara, the preformative molt is partial (Ryder and Wolfe 2009). More specific information on molt and its timing is not available for Seven-colored Tanager.
Iris: dark brown (Hilty 2011)
Bill: black, and relatively thick compared to other species of this genus (Hilty 2011)
Tarsi and toes: dark gray (Hilty 2011)
Total length: 13 cm (Isler and Isler 1987), 13.5 cm (Sick 1993).