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Merlin Bird ID

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    Scarlet Tanager

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    Scarlet Tanager

    Piranga olivacea
    • ORDER: Passeriformes
    • FAMILY: Cardinalidae
    Basic Description

    Male Scarlet Tanagers are among the most blindingly gorgeous birds in an eastern forest in summer, with blood-red bodies set off by jet-black wings and tail. They’re also one of the most frustratingly hard to find as they stay high in the forest canopy singing rich, burry songs. The yellowish-green, dark-winged females can be even harder to spot until you key in on this bird’s chick-burr call note. In fall, males trade red feathers for yellow-green and the birds take off for northern South America.

    More ID Info
    image of range map for Scarlet TanagerRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

    Find This Bird

    During spring migration and summer, listen for the raspy, robin-like song of the male Scarlet Tanager in mature deciduous forest in the East. They like to stay high in the trees, but if you are patient and keep looking up, you’ll probably see a flash of brilliant red as the male changes song perches or goes after an insect. During late summer and fall migration, Scarlet Tanagers often join mixed flocks of other songbirds to feed. If you can learn this bird’s distinctive chick-burr call note, it’s very useful for finding both males and females.

    Other Names
    • Piranga Escarlata (Spanish)
    • Piranga écarlate (French)

    Backyard Tips

    Scarlet Tanagers visit many kinds of berry plants, including blackberries, raspberries, huckleberries, juneberries, serviceberries, mulberries, strawberries, and chokeberries.

    • Cool Facts