Silver-throated Tanager Tangara icterocephala

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Thraupidae
  • Polytypic: 3 subspecies
  • Authors: Ashley Lane-Roberts and Kevin J. Burns


Distinguishing Characteristics

Milpe reserve in northwest Ecuador, 09 February 2009, © Glenn BartleyThe Silver-throated Tanager is an average-sized member of the speciose genus Tangara. It is one of the few species of Tangara with a striped pattern on the upperparts. The Silver-throated Tanager primarily is yellow and black, but as the name suggests, the throat is conspicuously whitish.

Similar Species

Silver-throated Tanagers have a distinctive plumage and are unlikely to be mistaken for other species. Silver-throated Tanager easily is distinguished from superficially similar, syntopic Tangara, such as Golden (Tangara arthus) and Emerald (Tangara florida) tanagers, by the whitish throat, black malar, and lack of a black spot on the auriculars (Hilty and Brown 1986, Stiles and Skutch 1989).
Duller females and immatures also may be confused with the female Black-and-yellow Tanager (Chrysothlypis chrysomelas), but the Silver-throated Tanager is streaked and has a pale throat patch that the Black-and-yellow Tanager lacks (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989).

Detailed Description

Adults: Sexes similar, but the female is duller than the male. Silver-throated Tanager. Catartas La Paz, Heredia, Costa Rica; 16 August 2009. © Luis Vargas

Adult male: Overall bright yellow with bits of black and green. The underparts and rump are yellow and the back is yellow with black streaks. The head is yellow with a black malar stripe. The silvery throat patch bordered by the malar stripes gives this species its name. Wing and tail feathers are black with thick green edges. Bill short, thick (as is typical of Tangara).

Adult female:  Overall, female is slightly duller and more greenish than male (Wetmore et al. 1984); also, the crown may be faintly mottled with blackish (Stiles and Skutch 1989). An analysis of coloration using an avian visual model shows the species to be dichromatic, especially in the rump, breast, belly and auriculars (A. J. Shultz and K. J. Burns, unpubl. data).

Juveniles: Juveniles are all-over dull greenish-yellow with a dull green back. The head and back are streaked dark gray and the malar stripe is dusky. Subadult plumage is retained through the first breeding season (Skutch 1954:226; Stiles and Skutch 1989, Isler and Isler 1987).


After their first molt, the plumage appears duller than the adult plumage and this coloration is kept through the first breeding season. Yearling Silver-throated Tanagers then take on the adult plumage after they undergo their second molt (Skutch 1954: 226).

Bare Parts

Iris: brown (Skutch 1954)

Bill: black (Stiles and Skutch 1989)

Tarsi: gray (Stiles and Skutch 1989)


Total length:  13 cm (n=61; Isler and Isler 1987)

Measurement data on Silver-throated Tanager Tangara icterocephala; measurements in mm, from Wetmore et al. (1984)
   wing length  tail length  tarsus length  culmen (from base)   n
 frantzii, male  73.6  (72.4-77.4)   47.3 (45.8-47.7)  18.3 (17.5-18.8)  12.9 (21.0-14.8)   8
 frantzii, female  71.1 (68.7-72.4)   45.6 (43.5-47.6)  18.3 (17.8-18.8)  13.2 (12.5-14.0)   9
 oresbia, male   73.6 (72.4-77.4)   47.3 (45.8-47.7)   18.3 (17.5-18.8)   12.9 (12.0-14.8) 10
 oresbia, female   71.1 (68.7-72.4)   45.6 (43.5-47.6)  18.3 (17.8-18.8)   13.2 (12.5-14.0)   9
 icterocephala, male   72.2 (71.2-75.0)   45.8 (44.2-48.5)  16.8 (16.0-17.3)   12.3 (12.1-12.5) 10
 icterocephala, female   68.7 (66.6-72.3)   42.7 (41.9-46.2)   17.2 (16.2-17.5)   12.7 (12.2-14,2)   9

Mass, both sexes:

22 g (17.7-24.7 g; n=61; Isler and Isler 1987)

Mass, males:

21.7 ± 0.3 g (n=14; Hartman 1955)

Mass, females:

22.1 ± 0.4 g (n=9; Hartman 1955)

Recommended Citation

Lane-Roberts, A. and K. J. Burns (2010). Silver-throated Tanager (Tangara icterocephala), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.