The scarlet tanager (Piranga olivacea) is a medium-sized American songbird. Until recently, it was placed in the tanager family (Thraupidae), but it and other members of its genus are now classified as belonging to the cardinal family (Cardinalidae). The species' plumage and vocalizations are similar to other members of the cardinal family, although the Piranga species lacks the thick conical bill (well suited to seed and insect eating) that many cardinals possess. The species resides in thick deciduous woodlands and suburbs.
The scarlet tanager, a mid-sized passerine, is marginally the smallest of the four species of Piranga that breed north of the Mexican border. Adult males are crimson-red with black wings and tail. The male's coloration is intense and deeply red, similar but deeper in shade than the males of two occasionally co-existing relatives, the northern cardinal and the summer tanager, both which lack black wings. Females are yellowish on the underparts and olive on top, with yellow-olive-toned wings and tail. The adult male's winter plumage is similar to the female's, but the wings and tail remain darker. Young males briefly show a more complex, variegated plumage intermediate between adult males and females.