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A photo of a Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra), male
Summer Tanager, Male

Summer Tanager

Piranga rubra

The Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra) is a medium-sized songbird of vibrant plumage, belonging to the cardinal family (Cardinalidae). Adult males are resplendent in rose red, while females don a more subdued palette of orangish underparts and olive upperparts, with olive-brown wings and tail.

Identification Tips

To identify the Summer Tanager, look for the stout pointed bill and the striking sexual dimorphism in coloration. Males are entirely rose red, a hue not found in many other birds. Females, on the other hand, are more camouflaged with their olive and orange tones. The species measures approximately 17 cm in length, with a wingspan ranging from 28 to 30 cm.


These tanagers favor open wooded areas, particularly those with a generous sprinkling of oak trees. They thrive in the southern reaches of the United States, where the canopy provides both shelter and sustenance.


During the breeding season, the Summer Tanager can be found across the southern United States, extending as far north as Iowa. Come winter, they migrate to the warmer climes of Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. They are considered extremely rare visitors to western Europe.


The Summer Tanager is often a hidden gem, foraging high in the treetops and occasionally darting out to snatch insects in mid-flight. They exhibit a preference for bees and wasps, deftly plucking them from the air with remarkable agility.

Song & Calls

The male's song is reminiscent of the American Robin, a series of melodic units delivered in a steady stream. However, the Summer Tanager's song is more monotonous, sometimes comprising just a few units. It is clearer and less nasal than the Scarlet Tanager's. Their call is a sharp, agitated-sounding "pi-tuk" or "pik-i-tuk-i-tuk."


Summer Tanagers construct a cup-shaped nest on a horizontal tree branch, where they lay their eggs and raise their young in the seclusion of the leafy canopy.

Similar Species

The Summer Tanager can be confused with the Hepatic Tanager, but the latter can be distinguished by its darker bill.

Diet and Feeding

These birds primarily consume insects, with a particular fondness for bees and wasps. They also partake in berries and are known to enjoy the fruit of the Cymbopetalum mayanum tree during their winter stay in the tropics. They are amenable to visiting bird feeders in residential areas.

Conservation Status

The IUCN Red List classifies the Summer Tanager as Least Concern, indicating a stable population without immediate threats to its survival.

Summer Tanager Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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