Notice for readers: On March 31, Neotropical Birds will be integrated into the new Birds of the World, a powerful research database offering species accounts for every species on earth. Learn more at While Birds of the World is a subscription service, we remain committed to offering this content to Neotropical Birds contributors and to those unable to pay for it through our scholarship program. Stay tuned.

Speckled Tanager Ixothraupis guttata

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


The breeding season for Speckled Tanagers is thought to run from May-June (Hilty and Brown 1986), with the earliest nest building activity observed in mid-April, and the latest newly hatched eggs discovered in mid-June (Skutch 1954). Speckled Tanagers have been known to nest in small trees on the edge of forests and streams from 3-7.5 m (mean= 2.5 m; n=5) above the ground (Skutch 1954).
Skutch (1954) observed that both males and females aid, more or less equally, in the construction of an open cup nest, the construction of which requires around three days (Wetmore et al 1984). The nest is composed of slender rachises of small compound leaves and fragments of leaf blades and banana leaf strips (Stiles and Skutch 1991), while observed interior layers had more strips of banana leaves, dicotyledonous leaf pieces, black fungal hyphae and a few horsehairs (Skutch 1954).
In the five nests observed by Skutch (1954), all pairs laid two eggs, which were white and heavily mottled, particularly near the larger end and measured 20.6 by 15.1 mm. The incubation period lasts 13 days. While Skutch (1954) was not absolutely confident in his ability to identify separate sexes, he saw nothing to indicate that the male took part in incubation. However, males have been observed feeding incubating females, while the females only take brief respites from incubating. Skutch (1954) recorded females incubating 628-80% of the time during multiple observational periods. Both parents were absent during all observed incubating recesses.
The brooding period of Speckled Tanagers appears to last 15 days, during which both males and females feed the hatchlings, but only females brood for periods from 5 to 46 minutes (mean 19.4; n=12; Skutch 1954). Skutch (1954) observed a third individual approaching and helping the brooding pair, perhaps suggesting that offspring from the previous clutch stay to assist their parents with rearing the next generation. Fledglings have also been observed foraging with their parents and receiving food from parents after leaving the nest (Skutch 1954).

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.