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Version 1.0

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Flame-crested Tanager Tachyphonus cristatus

Jessica Looney, Kevin J. Burns, and Thomas S. Schulenberg
Version: 1.0 — Published December 3, 2010


Geographic Variation

The Flame-crested Tanager (Tachyphonus cristatus) is the most variable species in the genus Tachyphonus with 10 recognized subspecies (Storer 1970, Dickinson 2003). There is considerable variation in characters within populations as well (Hellmayr 1936, Zimmer 1945), and many of the currently recognized subspecies may not be valid. Males vary in the color of the crest and size of the throat patch. In general, the plumage is blacker of males of subspecies north of the Amazon, and throat patch is smaller; while the plumage is browner, and, with the apparent exception of nattereri, the throat patch is larger in subspecies south of the Amazon (Zimmer 1945: 16).

T. c. nattereri (southwestern Brazil in Mato Grosso)- Formerly classified as a separate species (e.g. Hellmayr 1936, Meyer de Schauensee 1966), but currently treated as a subspecies of T. cristatus (Zimmer 1945, Isler and Isler 1987, Ridgely and Tudor 1989, Clements et al. 2009). This taxon is poorly known. It apparently is smaller than other subspecies of cristatus. The crest of the male reportedly is more orange, the rump patch is restricted, and the throat is entirely black (Zimmer 1945, Ridgely and Tudor 1989).

T. c. cristatellus (southeastern Colombia south to northeastern Peru, and east to southern Venezuela and northwestern Brazil) - Its crest is pure scarlet and it has duller plumage around the chin and throat (Restall et al. 2007).

T. c. cristatus (French Guiana and northeastern Brazil, east of the Rio Nhamundá) - has standard plumage of the Flame-crested Tanager but with the very front of the crest paler (Restall et al. 2007).

T. c. fallax (southern Colombia in southeastern Nariño), eastern Ecuador and northeastern Peru, south of the Ucayali drainage) - Similar to T. c. cristatus, but "coronal patch of males averaging more orange, less scarlet, in hue; buff frontal band less well developed and less extended along the sides of the crown. Even more noticeably different from ... cristatellus by the lighter crown and less-developed buffy frontal band. Differs from huarandosae by the shorter crest of the males (10-13.5 mm instead of 14.3-17)" (Zimmer 1945: 18).

T. c. intercedens (eastern Venezuela, Guyana, and Suriname) - "Differs from T. c. cristatus .... in the male sex by having the crest orange yellow (without any reddish hue), while the female is more olivaceous above with the forehead and hindneck less grayish" (Hellmayr 1936: 329).

T. c. orinocensis (extreme eastern Colombia and southern Venezuela)- "... the male crest more reddish than that of cristatus and with the females more warmly colored above, with a stronger and darker brown crown and a distinctly gray, instead of dull buffy, front" (Zimmer 1945: 15).

T. c. huarandosae (Chinchipe valley in northern Peru) - Similar to nominate cristatus, but the crest of the male is longer, and the rump and throat patches are smaller.

T. c. brunneus (eastern Brazil, from Pernambuco south to São Paulo) -

T. c. madeirae (central Brazil south of the Amazon, from Teffe east to the Rio Xingú, south to southeastern Peru [Parker 1982] and to Mato Grosso) - "Nearest to, and agreeing with, T. c. brunneus in grenadine red to scarlet crest with little, if any, buff lateral border, but crest feathers decidedly shorter ... and gular patch much deeper ochraceous" (Hellmayr 1936: 330).

T.c. pallidigula (northeastern Brazil, south of the Amazon, in eastern Pará and along the lower Rio Tocantins) - "Similar to T. c. brunneus ... but crest shorter and deeper red; throat and uropygium lighter ochraceous. Similar to T. c. maderiae ... but throat and uropygium paler" (Zimmer 1945: 18).



Tachyphonus cristatus [cristatus Group]


Tachyphonus cristatus nattereri

Related Species

The Flame-crested Tanager is one of eight species of the genus Tachyphonus. The genus Tachyphonus sis notable because these species are found in a wide variety of habitats, and are diverse in social and foraging habits (Isler and Isler 1987). Based on DNA sequence data, the Flame-crested Tanager (Tachyphonus cristatus) and the Yellow-crested Tanager (Tachyphonus rufiventer) are sister species, although support for this relationship is not particularly strong (Burns and Racicot 2009). Burns and Racicot (2009) sampled two geographically close populations and found significant intraspecific sequence divergence.

Physical barriers have contributed to the distribution of the Tachyphonus cristatus species. The sister species Tachyphonus cristatus and Tachyphonus rufiventer are separated by the Amazon river in the north, and by the Fitzcarrald arch, a structural uplift arch, in the east (Burns and Racicot 2009). This separation contributes to the diversification of the two species.

Recommended Citation

Looney, J., K. J. Burns, and T. S. Schulenberg (2010). Flame-crested Tanager (Tachyphonus cristatus), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.flctan1.01