Paradise Tanager

Paradise Tanager: A Vibrant Species Known for Their Colorful Display

paradise tanager

The paradise tanager is a small, vibrantly colored bird found in the Amazon rainforest. With its striking red, blue, green, and black plumage, the paradise tanager is known for its beautiful and colorful display.

Understanding the Paradise Tanager Species

The paradise tanager’s scientific name is Tangara chilensis. It belongs to the family Thraupidae, the tanager family. Though its name references Chile, the paradise tanager is not found there but rather across the Amazon Basin.

Unique Physical Attributes: Stunning Color Combinations

The paradise tanager grows 13.5 to 15 cm long. Its plumage features:

  • A bright green head
  • A black back and wings
  • A red rump
  • Blue underparts and tail
  • A yellow or red vent region

Both male and female paradise tanagers share this vibrant coloring. The birds’ black beaks and gray legs also match between the sexes.

Comparing male and female paradise tanagers are:

male and female paradise tanagers
male and female paradise tanagers
  • Males and females have almost identical, brightly colored plumage making them very difficult to distinguish visually. Researchers cannot easily identify the sexes without DNA testing.
  • The colorful feathers of both sexes include a green mask on the face/eyes, purple throat, bright blue chest and belly, and red or yellow patch on the lower back.
  • Due to the similarity in appearance, there is limited data on whether males assist with incubating eggs or share other parental duties. The female builds the nest while the male may tag along.

Mle and female paradise tanagers look remarkably alike, sporting vibrant green, purple, blue, red and yellow feathers on their bodies. Their identical coloring makes it challenging for scientists to study differences in behavior between the sexes. More DNA analysis would be needed to distinguish male from female birds.

Habitat and Diet in the Rainforest


  • Native to the Amazon rainforest in South America
  • Found in humid tropical and subtropical lowland forests in the western and northern Amazon basin
  • Also inhabit forests and woodlands more broadly in parts of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, and Brazil
  • Most often spotted high up in the rainforest canopy while foraging


  • Omnivores that eat a variety of fruits, nectar, berries and insects
  • Forage for fruit and insects high in the canopy of the rainforest
  • Sometimes forage at mid-story level of the forest as well

Paradise tanagers are native to the Amazon rainforest where they predominantly inhabit the canopy layer of humid lowland forests. They are omnivorous, feeding on a mix of fruit and insects found high up in the trees. Their colorful plumage can be spotted by birdwatchers as they forage in small flocks in rainforest areas across parts of South America.

Breeding and Lifespan


  • Form small cup-shaped nests out of vegetation in the rainforest canopy to lay eggs
  • Breeding season lasts from June to late August
  • Females lay 2-4 eggs in the nest which they incubate for just over 2 weeks
  • Limited data on whether males assist with incubating eggs or share parental duties
  • After hatching, parents feed the chicks small spiders and caterpillars


  • Exact lifespan data is unknown for wild paradise tanagers
  • In captivity, the record lifespan is 14 years

Paradise tanagers construct canopy nests and breed during the summer months in South America. The female lays and incubates 2-4 eggs which hatch after 2+ weeks, at which point the parents provide the spider and caterpillar food. The exact lifespan is uncertain but they have lived up to 14 years in captivity. More data is needed on the male’s role and average longevity.

Where Can Paradise Tanagers Be Found?

The vibrantly colored paradise tanager makes its home in humid rainforests across northern South America. These birds thrive in tropical and subtropical environments.

Native Habitat: Humid Tropical and Subtropical Forests

Paradise tanagers live in lowland evergreen forests in the Amazon basin. They prefer primary rainforests as well as older secondary forests. Their native habitat tends to be hot, humid, and rainy.

These birds make their homes high up in the forest canopy. Lush vegetation across multiple layers provides food and shelter. Paradise tanagers occasionally descend to the lower levels and forest floor. But the canopy offers their preferred setting.

Geographical Distribution: From Peru to Brazil

The paradise tanager’s range extends across:

  • Peru
  • Colombia
  • Venezuela
  • The Guianas
  • Ecuador
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil

Research shows the densest populations live in the northern Amazon rainforests.

The Northern Amazon Basin: A Paradise Tanager Stronghold

The highest densities of paradise tanagers occur in the forests of the northern Amazon Basin. This includes southeast Venezuela, the Guianas, and northern Brazil.

These lowland tropical forests provide an abundance of fruit and insects to sustain healthy paradise tanager populations. The birds also find plentiful sites for nesting and rearing offspring.

Dispersion in Chile: An Interesting Fact

Despite its scientific name Tangara chilensis, the paradise tanager does not live in Chile. This name stems from an error made when the species was first documented. The true native range lies in the Amazon, not the Andes.

Adaptation to Environments: Canopy Dwellers

Paradise tanagers display superb adaptation to life in the treetop canopy. Their strong feet and legs allow them to perch and climb with ease. Their slender, pointed beaks help them probe flowers and catch insects.

While the canopy offers their primary domain, these resourceful birds will descend to all levels of the forest as needed. This flexibility aids the paradise tanager’s success across the Amazon.

What Does the Paradise Tanager Eat?

The diet of the paradise tanager consists mainly of fruit and insects. These colorful canopy birds utilize their specialized beaks and feet to forage across their rainforest home.

Dietary Habits: Fruits and Insects

Paradise tanagers eat a mix of:

  • Fruit: Figs, berries, seeds
  • Insects: Caterpillars, ants, beetles

Fruit often makes up over 50% of their food intake. But insects offer an essential source of protein. Nectar provides another supplemental food.

Dependence on Beak Attributes

The tanager’s slender, pointed beak allows them to grab and consume a variety of foods. Their beaks help them:

  • Probe flowers for nectar
  • Grasp fruits and pick insects off leaves
  • Crack open hard nuts and seeds

Without this versatile beak, they could not thrive on their diverse diet.

Foraging in Flocks

Paradise tanagers often join mixed-species flocks to search for food. These flocks facilitate finding fruit trees and swarms of insects. Larger groups can also better watch for predators. Birds work together by calling out food locations.

Influence of Location on Diet

Across the Amazon rainforest, food availability changes by season and location. Paradise tanagers readily shift their diet based on what’s available. Their movement in flocks aids in tracking down reliable food hotspots. This adaptation helps the birds flourish across various parts of their range.

The paradise tanager depends on a varied diet and flexible feeding strategies to meet its needs. This allows the colorful species to brighten the many layers of the Amazon rainforest.

How do I identify a paradise tanager?

The Paradise Tanager is a brightly colored songbird found in parts of South America. Here are some tips for identifying these beautiful birds:

Identification tips: Colors, Beak and Leg Characteristics

The paradise tanager (Tangara chilensis) is easily identified by its vibrant and colorful plumage.

  • It has a light green mask across the face and eyes.
  • The throat is violet-blue, transitioning to a lighter sky blue on the belly.
  • The back and wings are black, providing contrast to the bright colors.
  • The lower back or rump patch can be red, yellow, or a mix, depending on subspecies.

The beak and legs are black on all subspecies. Males and females look nearly identical.

Here is a visual summary of the key identification features:

ColorsGreen mask, blue throat/belly, black back/wings, red/yellow rump
BeakBlack, pointed
Size13-15 cm long
Male vs FemaleVery similar appearance

Media references for accurate identification

Photos and videos from reputable sources like Macaulay Library and Birds of the World are very helpful for accurately identifying the paradise tanager in the wild.

When using photos, look for:

  • Vibrant green mask
  • Distinct color transition from violet-blue throat to lighter blue belly
  • Contrasting black wings and back
  • Red, yellow, or mixed rump patch

Videos showing the bird in motion can confirm the identification through behaviors like flying and perching.

Paradise Tanager images: A visual guide

Here are some photos showing key identification features of the paradise tanager:

Green mask blue throat transitioning to lighter belly black wings on paradise tanager
Green mask blue throat transitioning to lighter belly black wings on paradise tanager
Red rump patch visible on Paradise Tanagers
Red rump patch visible on Paradise Tanagers
Paradise Tanagers Foraging in canopy 1
Paradise Tanagers Foraging in the canopy

The paradise tanager’s vibrant plumage makes it easily recognizable, especially the green mask, variegated blues, black wings, and red/yellow rump. Photos, videos, and visual observation focusing on these key traits allow certain identification.

What is the current status of the paradise tanager population?

Conservation status: IUCN Red List and BirdLife International findings

The paradise tanager is classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, indicating it is not currently considered threatened. BirdLife International states the species is suspected to lose 12.5-14.2% of suitable habitat over 15 years, but does not list it as threatened.

Are there subspecies of Paradise Tanagers?

Yes, there are 4 recognized subspecies of paradise tanagers:

  • Tangara chilensis caelicolor
  • Tangara chilensis chlorocorys
  • Tangara chilensis coelicolor
  • Tangara chilensis paradisea

The subspecies have slightly differing plumage and geographic breeding ranges in northern South America.

Changes in population and range: Weekly bar chart data

The eBird weekly bar charts showing changes in paradise tanager populations and range require signing in and cannot be referenced here. In general, detailed information on population changes is described as “spatiotemporally patchy”.

Recommended citation for further study

BirdLife International Species factsheet: Tangara chilensis. Downloaded from

In summary, while some habitat loss is occurring, paradise tanagers remain a relatively common species in the Amazon basin and are not currently considered threatened. Their population status appears stable, though more research is needed for confirmation.