Pied Tamarin Monkey

Saguinus bicolor

At the Zoo

The Zoo’s group of pied tamarins can be found in the Thelma and Henry Doelger Primate Discovery Center.

Fascinating Facts

Physical Characteristics

These tamarins are named for their black, hairless face and ears. They have a unique coloration with a white upper half and a brown lower half. The underbelly on the lower half including the tail is a reddish-brown. These primates have non-opposable thumbs with claw-like digits, except for the first digit on each toe. Tamarins are very small compared to other New World monkeys, only weighing about a pound.

Lifespan in the wild is unknown and is typically 8 – 9 years in captivity.


They are found in a restricted area in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest within and just north of the city limits of Manaus. Pied tamarins prefer the canopy level in lowland rainforest near valley streams and plateau slopes.

Pied tamarins eat invertebrates like insects and spiders, a variety of fruits, flowers, nectar and plant gums. In the Zoo, our tamarins diet includes a variety of fresh fruits, insects like mealworms and crickets and monkey chow.

Social Behavior

Like other primates, tamarins are highly social; living together in mixed groups of 4-15 individuals. There is a distinct hierarchy between females so that only the dominant female will give birth each year. This is accomplished by using chemical pheromones to suppress other females’ ability to ovulate.

Twins are born after a gestation period of about 160 days. Births are seasonal and tend to occur when fruit is most abundant. Although only the dominant female gives birth, all other females help to care for the young. For the first week of life the mother carries infants on her back, afterwards the responsibility is shared with other members of the group.

Vocalizations consist of high-pitched whistles and chirps. Scent marking is also used to communicate and is produced by rubbing the gland under the tail against branches; this is believed to help reinforce territories.

Status In The Wild

Pied tamarins are listed as endangered by the IUCN. They have one of the smallest ranges of any primate and are now thought to be one of the most endangered monkeys in the Amazon. Their primary threat is habitat loss as forests are converted for agriculture, pastureland and human development. Local management plans, protected reserves and more captive breeding programs need to be established to ensure the survival of this species.

What can you do to help pied tamarins?

Animals & Exhibits