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Species Guide

Red-headed Tanager

Piranga erythrocephala

The Red-headed Tanager, scientifically known as Piranga erythrocephala, is a medium-sized songbird belonging to the family Cardinalidae. This vibrant species is adorned with a striking red head and throat in males, while females exhibit a more subdued yellowish forecrown. Both sexes share the yellow-olive plumage that is characteristic of this species.

Identification Tips

To identify the Red-headed Tanager, look for the male's vivid red head and throat, contrasted with yellow-olive upperparts and olive-yellow underparts. A narrow black "mask" is also present. Females, on the other hand, have a yellowish forecrown with yellow-olive upperparts and a yellow to buffy white gradient on the throat and chest. Juvenile males resemble the brighter females. The subspecies P. e. candida is similar but presents a duller and darker appearance.


This tanager is a dweller of various wooded habitats, including semi-humid and moist montane forests, pine-oak forests, evergreen forests, and open woodlands with scrub. It is also found along forest edges and in plantations.


Endemic to Mexico, the Red-headed Tanager's range extends discontinuously from Jalisco state south to eastern Oaxaca, with the subspecies P. e. candida found from southern Sonora and Chihuahua south to Jalisco. It inhabits elevations from 900 to 2,600 meters (3,000 to 8,500 feet).


This tanager typically forages in pairs or small groups, staying within the mid to upper levels of the tree canopy. It is known to search for insects and small fruits, such as berries, within the foliage and occasionally at the ends of branches.

Song & Calls

The song of the Red-headed Tanager is a melodious and slow series of notes, described as 'chur chew che-wier chéé-chur wee chur cheer chéé-chur' or 'tsi-tsi tsee-tsee'. It also emits several distinct calls.


The nest of the Red-headed Tanager is a finely constructed cup of twigs, positioned at a mid to upper height within a tree. Detailed information on its breeding habits remains scarce.

Conservation Status

The IUCN has classified the Red-headed Tanager as Least Concern. The species is present in several protected areas, and much of its habitat outside these areas remains intact, suggesting a low near-term risk to its population.

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Red-headed Tanagers on Birda

A map showing the sighting location
James Leone
25 Mar 2024 - 7:41pm

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