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Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Western Tanager

Piranga ludoviciana ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: CARDINALIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Despite its striking markings of red, yellow, and black, the slow-moving Western Tanager is a surprisingly inconspicuous bird of the western forests.

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Appearance

Finchlike
Finchlike
Typical Voice

Adult Description

  • Medium-sized songbird.
  • Yellow with dark wings, tail and back.
  • Two bright wingbars.

Male Description

Breeding (Alternate) plumage: Entire head red. Hindneck, rump, and underparts bright yellow. Two wingbars, upper bright yellow, lower whitish yellow. Back, wings, and tail black. Bill dull yellow. Legs and feet bluish gray. Eye dark.
Nonbreeding (Basic) plumage: Head yellowish without red or with only reddish wash. Duller yellow underparts, washed with olive green. Back feathers tipped with yellowish or olive.

Female Description

Olive green upperparts. Back and wings gray. Yellowish rump. Underparts variable from bright yellow to grayish white; palest on belly, brightest under tail. Two yellowish white wing bars. Tail grayish brown or olive.

Immature Description

Similar to female. Immature male brighter yellow.

Range Map Help

Western Tanager Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Breeding male

    Western Tanager

    Breeding male
    • Stocky, mostly bright-yellow songbird
    • Scarlet red on face
    • Two bright wing-bars on jet black wings
    • © Lora Render, Hereford, Arizona, May 2012
  • Female

    Western Tanager

    Female
    • Medium-sized, mostly bright yellow songbird
    • Gray back and wings contrast with bright yellow rump/tail
    • Two bright wing-bars
    • © Ernest Gaudreau, Golden Gate, San Francisco, California, September 2010
  • Breeding male

    Western Tanager

    Breeding male
    • Mostly bright yellow with black back, wings, and tail
    • Scarlet red on crown and face
    • Two bright wing-bars
    • © Dickson Smith, Brigham City, Utah, June 2011
  • Female

    Western Tanager

    Female
    • Stocky, mostly yellow songbird
    • Gray back contrasts with bright yellow rump and under-tail
    • Two bright wing-bars
    • © Nick Dean, Ridgefield NWR, Washington, September 2012
  • Nonbreeding male

    Western Tanager

    Nonbreeding male
    • Similar to breeding male, but with red limited or absent on head
    • Duller yellow on breast and back with more olive tones
    • Two bright wing-bars
    • © Christopher Adler, San Diego, California, May 2012
  • Breeding male

    Western Tanager

    Breeding male
    • Bright yellow, medium-sized songbird
    • Scarlet red/orange on crown and face
    • Two bright wing-bars on black wings
    • Black tail
    • © Lois Manowitz, Ventana County, Arizona, August 2010
  • Female

    Western Tanager

    Female
    • Stocky, medium-sized songbirds
    • Younger females are duller olive/yellow
    • Gray back contrasts with brighter yellow rump
    • Two bright wing-bars
    • © Raymond Lee, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, August 2010

Similar Species

  • Adult female

    Scarlet Tanager

    Adult female
    • Similar to female Western Tanager, but lacks wing-bars
    • More olive-green than yellow
    • © edgc211, Storrs, Connecticut, May 2008

Similar Species

  • Occasionally female Scarlet Tanager may have wingbars, but it lacks the grayish back that contrasts with the rump and nape.