Spotted Tanager Ixothraupis punctata

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


Geographic Variation

There are five recognized subspecies (Isler and Isler 1987, Clements et al. 2010).
-T. p. punctata - See Detailed Description. Occurs in southern Venezuela in Bolívar and Amazonas, the Guianas, and Brazil north of the Amazon from the Rio Negro east to Amapa, and south of the Amazon in Para (Isler and Isler 1987).

-T. p. zamorae - Larger than T. p. punctata. Primary-coverts and primaries are fringed with green (Restall et al. 2007). Occurs in tropical eastern Ecuador and northern Peru.

-T. p. perenensis - About the same size as C. p. zamorae, but has whiter underparts with less yellow on the sides of its nape, breast, and sides of its breast (Hellmayr 1936). It has a darker surface on its dorsal side with less yellowish green (Hellmayr 1936). It is generally similar to C. p. punctulata, but more coarsely spotted above and has dusky streaks on flanks as well as under tail coverts (Hellmayr 1936). Occurs in tropical and subtropical eastern Peru (Chanchamayo region).

-T. p. annectens - Occurs in subtropical southeastern Peru. Intermediate in plumage between and T. p. perenensis and T. p. punctulata, with more sharply limited spots than perenensis, but less sharply limited spots than punctulata (Nørgaard-Olesen 1973).

-T. p. punctulata - Occurs in northern Bolivia in La Paz and Cochabamba. Plumage: upperparts are grass-green and underparts white, both spotted black. Center of belly pure white, vent yellowish, and edge of flight feathers are yellow-green (Nørgaard-Olesen 1973).

Related Species

The Spotted Tanager is a member of the genus Tangara, which contains 49 species of tanagers (Isler and Isler 1987). Isler and Isler (1987) divided these 49 species into 13 different species based on similarities in appearance, vocalization, foraging behaviors, and distribution. The Spotted Tanager is included in Species Group 6 with four other species: Yellow-bellied Tanager (T. xanthogastra), Speckled Tanager (T. guttata), Dotted Tanager (T. varia), and Rufous-throated Tanager (T. rufigula) (Isler and Isler 1987). These species share a distinctive speckled appearance and live mostly in the forest canopy, but may descend lower to forage on fruit and insects. Phylogenetic analyses of mtDNA sequence data confirms the monophyly of this group (Burns and Naoki 2004, Sedano and Burns 2010). However, these studies could not identify the species most closely related to T. punctata. Burns and Naoki (2004) included two individuals of T. punctata in their systematic study, one from the Amazonian portion of the range and one from the Andes. These two individuals showed a surprisingly high level of sequence divergence (6.0%). This level of divergence is typically encountered among well-differentiated species of birds, suggesting that more than one species may be involved within Tangara punctata.

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.