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Summer Tanager

Piranga rubra ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: CARDINALIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The only completely red bird in North America, the strawberry-colored male Summer Tanager is an eye-catching sight against the green leaves of the forest canopy. The mustard-yellow female is harder to spot, though both sexes have a very distinctive chuckling call note. Fairly common during the summer, these birds migrate as far as the middle of South America each winter. All year long they specialize in catching bees and wasps on the wing, somehow avoiding being stung by their catches.

Be a Better Birder Tutorial 4
Yard Map Birds Eye View

Songs

Males sing a series of slurred whistles separated by short pauses that can sound quite similar to (but shorter than) American Robin, typically lasting 2–4 seconds.

Calls

Both males and females give a dry, clicking pit-ti-tuck, adding extra syllables if agitated. During territorial disputes they may give a whining chew.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

Although Summer Tanagers mostly eat bees and wasps, they may also forage on backyard berry bushes and fruit trees near their forest habitat.

Find This Bird

For such a bright-red bird, Summer Tanagers can be hard to see in the tops of leafy green trees. As with many forest songbirds, the best way to find them is to listen, both for the robin-like song and for their very distinctive, muttering pit-ti-tuck call note. Look for them in open woodlands (particularly of oaks and other deciduous trees) where they are usually in the mid-canopy and above.