Scarlet tanager

Scarlet tanager
Piranga olivacea

Photo by Stefan Johansson (Flickr)

Common name:
scarlet tanager (en); sanhaçu-escarlate (pt); piranga écarlate (fr); tángara escarlata (es); scharlachtangare (de)

Order Passeriformes
Family Thraupidae

This species breeds in eastern North America, from Saskatchewan and North Dakota to southern Quebec and Maine, and south to Arkansas and Georgia. They migrate south to winter in north-western South America, from Panama, Colombia and Venezuela down to Bolivia.

These birds are 16-17 cm long and have a wingspan of 25-29 cm. They weigh 23-38 g.

The scarlet tanager breeds in deciduous forests and mixed deciduous forests with hemlock Tsuga sp. and pine Pinus sp., as well as in rural areas and in parks within urban areas. They winter in tropical moist forests and swamp forests, along the eastern slopes of the Andes up to an altitude of 1.300 m.

They feed on insects and fruits, namely aphids, weevils, beetles, cicadas, buds, dragonflies, ants, termites, caterpillars of gypsy moths, wasps, bees and wild fruits such as mulberries, June berries and huckleberries.

Scarlet tanagers breed in May-August. They are monogamous and the female builds the nest, a flimsy cup woven with twigs, grasses, plant stalks, bark strips, rootlets, and pine needles. The nest is lined with grass, fine rootlets, fine plant fibres, vine tendrils, and pine needles, and it is placed in a fork in a tree, up to 15 m above the ground. She lays 3-5 greenish-blue or light blue eggs with chestnut, purplish red, and lilac speckles, which are incubated for 12-14 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 9-15 days after hatching.

IUCN status – LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and a global population estimated at 2,2 million individuals. The scarlet tanager has had stable population trends over the last 4 decades.

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