Cotton-Top Tamarin


The cotton-top tamarin is among the smallest primates in the world, being similar in size to a common squirrel.  The cotton-top name comes from the crest of long, white hair from forehead to the nape of the neck that flows over the shoulders.  The back is brown, whereas underparts, arms and legs are whitish to yellow.  The rump and inner thighs are reddish orange and the tail is reddish orange toward the base, and more black toward the tip.  The Cotton-Top has non-opposable thumbs, and the nails of the digits are claw-like except for the first digit on each toe.


A group of cotton-top tamarins averages 3-9 individuals but can be as large as 19.  Larger groups may break up into smaller groups as group size increases, and individuals in these groups are not necessarily all related.  In addition to the dominant mated pair and their young, there may be transient individuals, younger animals of both sexes.  These diurnal animals have acute eyesight, hearing and smell to enable them in hunting and the detection of danger.  They travel up to 4 miles a day foraging for food and seeking sleeping spots high in the forks of trees. 

Did You Know?  

  • They have over 30 calls, including chirps, shrill calls, squeaks, and other bird-like calls, including specific calls associated with food preferences.
  • Females commonly give birth to twins!
  • When alarmed or excited, cotton-tops raise the hair on the crown of their head and stand up tall to make themselves look bigger.

Our Animals

You can find 3 cotton-tops zipping around in the south end of the Bird and Reptile House.  They are very active almost all day long!


Scientific Name Saguinis Oedipus
Conservation Status IUCN: Critically Endangered
Size The body length is around 7-8 inches, with the tail adding another 10-11 inches; and they typically weigh less than a pound.
Average Lifespan Up to 10 years in the wild, and as long as 20 years in captivity.
Wild Diet Sap, gum, as well as fruits, nuts, and nectar with the occasional insect or small reptile.
Found in Northern Colombia