Turquoise Tanager Tangara mexicana

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Thraupidae
  • Polytypic: 5 subspecies
  • Authors: Jennifer Hart and Kevin J. Burns


Geographic Variation

Five subspecies are recognized (Storer 1970, Isler and Isler 1999). The four northern subspecies are similar to one another; subspecies brasiliensis of eastern Brazil is distinctly different:

T. m. vieilloti: Occurs on Trinidad (Storer 1970). – Most similar to T. m media, "but still more deeply colored, the blue of the face and throat being darker and of a more purplish hue, and the under parts bright pinard yellow" (Hellmayr 1936: 135).

T. m. media: – Occurs from easternmost Colombia east across Venezuala to northwestern Brazil (Storer 1970). Similar to nominate mexicana, "but median under parts darker, barita yellow instead of massicot yellow; blue of face and throat slightly deeper; humeral patch also somewhat darker, cendre blue rather than calamine blue" (Hellmayr 1936: 135).

T. m. mexicana: Occurs in the Guianas (Storer 1970). This subspecies has a faint turquoise eyebrow, a very narrow yellow patch on the sides of the breast, and a pale yellow belly (Restall et al 2007).

T. m. boliviana: Occurs from eastern Colombia south to northern Bolivia, and east into Brazil (to the Rio Negro and Rio Madeira) (Storer 1970). The lesser wing coverts are more cerulean blue; the scaled appearances seen in other subspecies is lacking (Ingels 1974, Restall 2007).

T. m. brasiliensis: Occurs in the Atlantic forest region of Brazil, from southern Bahia south to Rio de Janeiro (Storer 1970). A very distinctive subspecies, sometimes classified as a separate species (e.g., Hellmayr 1936, Ridgely and Tudor 2009). Large (see Measurements).  The blue of the face, wing coverts, breast, flanks, and rump is paler, a pale silvery blue rather than deep turquoise blue; and the belly is white, not yellow (Meyer de Schauensee 1970).

Related Species

The Turquoise Tanager Tangara mexicana is one of 49 species of Tangara, which is the largest genus of Neotropical birds (Isler and Isler 1999). Isler and Isler (1999) arranged Tangara into 13 species groups, based on "an examination of their ranges, morphology, behaviors (especially foraging behaviors), vocalizations, and nest sites" (Isler and Isler 1999: 267). Their Species Group 1 contained two species, Tangara mexicana and the Plain-colored Tanager (Tangara inornata). This group is characterized by living in tight knit groups of 4-6 birds, having similar high pitched notes given rapidly that sometimes merge together into a twitter, and occupying the same semi-open areas within forested regions. A phylogenetic analysis of DNA sequence data of Tangara (Burns and Naoki (2004) confirmed the placement of sister relationship between Tangara mexicana and Tangara inornata. These results were corroborated by later study that included additional related species (Sedano and Burns 2010).

Recommended Citation

Hart, J. and K. J. Burns (2011). Turquoise Tanager (Tangara mexicana), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.turtan1.01