Backyard Birds

Bay-headed Tanagers

The Bay-headed Tanagers (Tangara gyrola) are a medium-sized tanagers.

Distribution / Habitat:

They occur naturally in Central America – namely Costa Rica, Panama – and in South America (south to Ecuador, Bolivia, southern Brazil), as well as on Trinidad (the southernmost island in the Caribbean).

They inhabit forests favoring wetter areas.

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Description and Subspecies:

The Bay-headed Tanagers measure about 14 cm in length and weigh around 19.5 g.

There are nine sub-species and there are considerable plumage variations between the various subspecies.

  • The nominate race T. g. gyrola
    • ID: Plumage mostly mainly green except for the chestnut head, a blue belly, and a thin gold collar on the hind neck.

  • Tangara gyrola bangsi
    • ID: Plumage mostly green, except for the vivid blue chest and belly, chestnut head, a yellow collar to the back of the neck. The vent feathers and thighs are chestnut-colored.
  • Tangara gyrola viridissima
    • Range: Northeast Venezuela and Trinidad
      • Plumage all green, except for the head
  • Tangara gyrola toddi
    • ID: Identical to ssp. viridissima above.

Males and females look alike. Although some gender identification may be possible by the shape of the head. The male is said to have a flat head, while the hen has a more rounded head. However, this method is imprecise.

Young / immature birds have a duller plumage and chestnut-flecked green heads.

Nesting / Breeding:

The bulky cup nest is built in a tree and the normal clutch consists of two brown-blotched creamy eggs.

The female incubates the eggs for 13–14 days to hatching, with another 14–18 days before the chicks fledge.


Their primary diet consists of fruit (often swallowed whole). They will also take nectar, seeds and insects, often picked from the underside of branches.

Calls / Vocalizations:

Its song is described as a slow seee, seee, seee, tsou, tsooy.


Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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