Spotted Tanager Ixothraupis punctata

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Thraupidae
  • Polytypic: 5 subspecies
  • Authors: Aileen Pansacula and Kevin J. Burns


Distinguishing Characteristics

The Spotted Tanager is a fairly small and energetic songbird that belongs to the genus Tangara. The upperparts are bright green, the flanks are yellowish green, and the face, throat, and belly are white, tinged with a light blue color (Ridgley and Tudor 1989, 2009). As the name suggests, it has black spots throughout its plumage, giving it a scaly appearance, a pattern that is uncommon in tanagers (Sick 1993). The Spotted Tanager is similar to its close relatives, the Speckled Tanager (Tangara guttata) and the Yellow-bellied Tanager (Tangara xanthogastra).

Similar Species

The Spotted Tanager can be confused with the Speckled Tanager (Tangara guttata) and Yellow-bellied Tanager (Tangara xanthogastra). Both of these species overlap with the Spotted Tanager on the slopes of the southern Venezuelan tepuis (Ridgely and Tudor 1989, Hilty 2003). The Spotted Tanager is slightly smaller than the Speckled Tanager; also, Speckled Tanager has a yellower face and more turquoise (rather than yellowish green) edgings to the wing feathers (Ridgley and Tudor 1989, 2009). The Yellow-bellied Tanager is slightly smaller than the Spotted Tanager and is mostly bright emerald green with a plain bright yellow, rather than whitish blue, belly (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001, Ridgely and Tudor 2009). The Spotted Tanager also is more heavily spotted than the Yellow-bellied Tanager (Schulenberg et al. 2007).

Detailed Description

Adults: The sexes are similar (Ridgley and Greenfield 2001). The Spotted Tanager is mostly  bright green and white, heavily spotted with black (Hilty 2003, Restall et al. 2007). The forecrown, face, and throat are white, tinged with bluish gray color (Hilty 2003). Lores are black (Sick 1993). Wings and tail are black, feathers with broad green edges (Hilty 2003). Breast white with thick black spotting; flanks yellowish green with black spotting. Lower breast, belly and undertail coverts are yellowish white with few or no spots (Hilty 2003).


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 subadult plumage (Isler and Isler 1987). In many species of Tangara, the preformative molt is partial (Ryder and Wolfe 2009). Species in the genus Tangara generally acquire adult plumage after the postjuvenal molt (Skutch 1954: 261). More specific information on molt and its timing is not available for Tangara punctata.

Bare Parts

Iris: brown

Bill: black

Tarsi and toes: gray

Bare parts color data from Restall et al. (2007)


The following information on weight and length were taken from Isler and Isler (1987).

Both Sexes:

Mean Weight (g); n = 17Min. Weight (g)Max Weight (g)
Min. Length (cm)Max Length (cm)

The following information on the male Spotted Tanager was taken from Dick et al. (1984).

Immature Male:

Mean Weight (g)

Adult Male:

Mean Weight (g)Min. Weight (g)Max Weight (g)

Body mass: 15.0 g ± 1.0 (n = 16; Naoki 2003, from the Serranía Bella Vista, Bolivia)

Recommended Citation

Pansacula, A. and K. J. Burns (2012). Spotted Tanager (Ixothraupis punctata), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.