The burnished buff Tanager, scientifically known as Stilpnia cayana (formerly Tangara cayana), is a small and strikingly colored bird native to South America. This species is known for its vibrant plumage, with males displaying a combination of bright orange, black, and gray, while females are generally duller with more uniform buffy-orange coloration. Both sexes feature a conspicuous white patch on their wings, which becomes more visible in flight. These tanagers are relatively small, with a compact body and a short, stout bill, adapted for their fruit-dominated diet.


Inhabiting a range of wooded habitats, the burnished buff Tanager is commonly found in forests, forest edges, and secondary growth areas. They are also frequent visitors to gardens and orchards with abundant fruiting trees. This species prefers lower and middle levels of vegetation, rarely venturing into dense forest canopies or open ground. Their soft, warbling song and the distinctive rustling of foliage as they forage often indicate their presence.

Burnished-buff Tanagers feed on fruits supplemented by insects and other small invertebrates. Their diet varies seasonally, depending on the availability of different fruit species. These birds play an important role in their ecosystems as seed dispersers, aiding in the regeneration of their forest habitats. In addition to natural fruit sources, they visit bird feeders, particularly those offering fruit or nectar.

Physical Description:

The burnished buff Tanager is a small bird, measuring approximately 5 to 6 inches long. The male is particularly striking, with a bright orange head, throat, and breast, contrasting with a black back, wings, and tail. The female is predominantly buffy-orange, with a less contrasting appearance and more uniform coloration throughout. Both sexes have a distinct white patch on their wings, a key identification feature.

Their beaks are short and conical, suitable for their fruit-based diet. These tanagers have a relatively robust and rounded body shape, typical of many fruit-eating bird species. The bright plumage of males makes them easily noticeable, while females blend more subtly into their surroundings. Their white wing patches become more prominent in flight, adding to their visual appeal.

Lifespan: Wild: ~10 years || Captivity: ~12 years

Weight: Male & Female: 0.5–0.7 oz (15–20 g)

Length: Male & Female: 5–6 in (13–15 cm)

Wingspan: Male & Female: 7–8 in (18–20 cm)

Top Speed: Unknown

Native Habitat:

The burnished buff Tanager inhabits various wooded habitats across South America. Their range extends from Colombia and Venezuela south to Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, and northern Argentina. They are commonly found in tropical and subtropical moist lowland forests, as well as in dry forests and heavily degraded former forests. These birds adapt well to human-altered landscapes, often seen in gardens, orchards, and along forest edges.

Their preference for lower and middle vegetation layers in forests allows them to exploit a variety of fruiting plants. They are rarely found in areas without tree cover, indicating their reliance on wooded environments. The availability of fruit-bearing trees and shrubs is a key factor in determining their habitat preference. Adapting to disturbed and secondary-growth habitats demonstrates their resilience and ability to cope with habitat changes.

Climate Zones:
Biogeographical Realms:

Diet & Feeding Habits:

Burnished-buff Tanagers are primarily frugivorous, feeding on various fruits found in their habitats. They consume fruits whole and aid in seed dispersal through their droppings. During certain seasons, they supplement their diet with insects, which provide additional protein. Their foraging behavior often involves moving through foliage in search of ripe fruits, occasionally hanging upside down to reach their food.

In addition to wild fruits, these tanagers visit bird feeders in gardens, where they consume offered fruits and nectar. They are often seen in small groups or pairs when foraging, occasionally joining mixed-species flocks. Their adaptability in feeding habits allows them to thrive in natural and modified habitats. The presence of fruit trees and shrubs in their environment is crucial for their sustenance and breeding success.

Mating Behavior:

Mating Description:

Burnished-buff Tanagers are monogamous, forming pair bonds that may last for multiple breeding seasons. During courtship, males display fluffed-up plumage and soft singing to attract females. These displays are often accompanied by offering fruits to the female, strengthening the pair’s bond. Nest building and incubation duties are typically shared by both partners, reflecting a cooperative approach to reproduction.

Nests are built in trees or shrubs, often well hidden among foliage. The female lays 2 to 3 eggs, which both parents incubate for about 12 to 14 days. The hatchlings are altricial, requiring significant parental care for feeding and protection. Post-fledging, the young birds often stay with their parents for an extended period before becoming independent.

Reproduction Season:

Birth Type:

Pregnancy Duration:

~15 days (Incubation)

Female Name:


Male Name:


Baby Name:


Social Structure Description:

The Burnished-Buff Tanager displays a dynamic social structure, shifting with seasonal changes. In the breeding season, they primarily engage in monogamous relationships, dedicating themselves to nest construction, egg incubation, and nurturing their offspring. This period is characterized by strong pair bonding and a shared commitment to parental responsibilities, underscoring the importance of cooperation in raising their young. The breeding season underscores their dedication to family, with both parents actively participating in the growth and protection of their chicks.

Outside the breeding season, burnished buff Tanagers adopt a more communal lifestyle, often forming small flocks for foraging. This tendency to aggregate is especially pronounced when searching for food, and they frequently join mixed-species flocks, a common behavior among various tanager species. Such social foraging improves their efficiency in finding food and enhances vigilance against potential predators. The ability of Burnished-Buff Tanagers to modify their social behavior based on environmental cues and seasonal shifts is a testament to their adaptability and social intelligence, which are crucial for their survival and success as a species.


Conservation Status:
Population Trend:


Wild: Unknown || Captivity: Unknown


The burnished buff Tanager population is considered stable and widespread across its natural range. They are a common species within suitable habitats, indicating a healthy population status. The species’ adaptability to various forested and semi-forested habitats, including those altered by human activity, contributes to its resilience.

During the breeding season, these tanagers are typically found in pairs, focusing on raising their young. Outside the breeding season, they may form small flocks, often seen foraging together. Their ability to utilize a variety of fruiting plants and adapt to different environments has helped maintain stable population numbers despite habitat changes in some regions.

Population Threats:

The primary threats to the Burnished-Buff Tanager include habitat loss and fragmentation due to deforestation and agricultural expansion. In some areas, their habitats are being converted into agricultural land, reducing the availability of suitable nesting and foraging sites. However, their adaptability to modified habitats like gardens and orchards has helped mitigate the impact of these threats.

Climate change could alter their habitats, affecting food availability and breeding success. Despite these challenges, the species’ wide distribution and generalist feeding habits have enabled them to maintain stable populations. Ongoing conservation efforts focusing on habitat preservation and sustainable land use are essential for their continued well-being.

Conservation Efforts:

Conservation efforts for the Burnished-Buff Tanager primarily focus on habitat conservation and management. Protecting and preserving tropical and subtropical forests is crucial for maintaining healthy populations of this species. Efforts include establishing protected areas, promoting sustainable forestry practices, and restoring degraded habitats.

Educational programs and community involvement are also important in conserving this species. Raising awareness about the importance of forest ecosystems and the role of species like the burnished buff Tanager in seed dispersal and ecosystem health can help garner support for conservation initiatives. Research on their ecology, breeding habits, and population dynamics is essential for informed conservation strategies and habitat management.

Additional Resources:

Fun Facts

  • The Burnished-Buff Tanager’s bright plumage is not just for show; it plays a crucial role in courtship and social interactions.
  • These birds have a unique, warbling song often heard during the breeding season and is used to attract mates and communicate with other tanagers.
  • Despite their small size, Burnished-buff Tanagers are known for their boldness, often approaching bird feeders closely in gardens and parks.
  • They are capable of rapid, agile flight, which they use to dart through foliage in search of food or to escape predators.
  • In addition to fruits and insects, these tanagers have been known to occasionally feed on nectar, displaying their versatile feeding habits.
  • The female burnished buff Tanager plays a significant role in nest building, carefully constructing the nest with twigs, leaves, and other plant materials.
  • Young tanagers learn to forage by observing and mimicking their parents’ behavior, highlighting the importance of parental care in their development.
  • The burnished buff Tanager is an important species for birdwatching tourism in many parts of South America, attracting enthusiasts with its vibrant colors and melodious song.
  • These tanagers are not just visually appealing; they play a vital ecological role in their habitats as seed dispersers and controllers of insect populations.
  • The adaptability of the Burnished-Buff Tanager to different habitats, including urban areas, demonstrates their resilience and capacity to coexist with human-altered environments.