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Speckled Tanager Ixothraupis guttata

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Thraupidae
  • Polytypic: 6 subspecies
  • Authors: Nicholas A. Mason and Kevin J. Burns



The Speckled Tanager is considered a very active bird, and rarely remains stationary while foraging, instead using deliberate, acrobatic maneuvers to constantly scan for fruit and arthropods along the canopy branches (Skutch 1954). It has also sallies for insects, although this foraging behavior is secondary to foliage gleaning (Stiles and Skutch 1991). This bird is rarely seen alone, rather forages and travels in small conspecific groups of 3-6 individuals, or as part of larger mixed species flocks (Wetmore et al. 1984).


Speckled Tanagers usually travel around in small groups of conspecific and mixed species flocks, and are generally not regarded as very territorial (Stiles and Skutch 1991). However, Skutch (1954) noted one instance where a male Speckled Tanager chased off birds foraging near the nest while the female remained incubating upon the nest, indicating some measure of territoriality while brooding. No estimates of territory or home range size have been reported for Speckled Tanagers.

Sexual Behavior

Tanagers are presumed to be socially monogamous for the most part, but no studies of the level of fidelity or rate of extra pair copulations have been conducted for Speckled Tanagers. It is thought that mated pairs stay together throughout the year (ffrench 1991). Skutch (1954) observed two nests in successive breeding seasons that were quite close to each other, and suggested that it could have been the same pair, suggesting that pair bonds may remain for multiple breeding opportunities. While tanagers are historically thought to be socially monogamous, recent work on the mating system of other species of tanagers have shown that extra pair copulations can be frequent, as in the estimated 49% extra-pair young in Cherrie's Tanager (Ramphocelus costaricensis; Krueger et al. 2008), suggesting that extra pair copulations may be present in other related taxa. More work needs to be done on the Speckled Tanager and related taxa in order to full understand the mating system, and the extent of extra-pair copulations, and pair fidelity.

Social and interspecific behavior

The Speckled Tanager rarely is seen alone, rather it prefers to forage and travel in small conspecific groups of 3-5 individuals, and frequently joins larger mixed species flocks, oftentimes with other Tangara species (Slud 1964). It is thought that the smaller conspecific groups could be family groups, with the offspring from the prior breeding season remaining with the parents and assisting in the rearing of young (Skutch 1954), but this has not been confirmed with marked individuals or with genetic testing.


No instances of predation or interactions with predators have been reported. Skutch (1954) notes that the Speckled Tanager was exceptionally unafraid of humans and remained on the nest as Skutch approached, until within a distance of 25-38 cm.

Recommended Citation

Mason, N. A. and K. J. Burns (2010). Speckled Tanager (Ixothraupis guttata), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.