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Scarlet Tanager

Scientific name: Pranga olivacea

This strikingly beautiful bird is often hard to spot, as its favorite place to rest is high up in trees. Their call gives them away, so why not listen to the recording below, so that you might be able to find them. After all, once you identify their call, the vibrant red color will give them away. There is not another red bird with black wings around, so you can be sure that it is a male tanager. The female, on the other hand, looks very different, more a yellow to olive and grey. See what she looks like down below.

Photo Credits: Missouri Department of Environmental Conservation


1 ounce


7 inches

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All kinds of berry plants. This strong flyer can catch insects in midair.


High in trees, especially oak and hickory forests.

Life Cycle

The scarlet tanager is only here to breed in the summer and returns to its wintering grounds in South America. You won’t see their nests which are very high up in the trees.  They only have one brood for the season and are monogamous for that summer only.


These birds have been known to fly as far south as Bolivia!

How You Can Help

Maintaining contiguous tracts of forest is necessary for the survival of many birds and animals, such as the scarlet tanager. Fragmentation of this environment have negatively affected this bird. For this reason and others, American songbirds, have declined in population by almost 50% from 1966 to 2015.  To learn more, please read this   article in National Geographic Magazine.

Fun Facts

The striking plumage of the mating male will molt at the end of the season and he will look much more like the female!

The Call of the Scarlet Tanager

Their song is sometimes said to sound like a robin with a cold, as its notes have a blurry quality. It is a series of rising and falling notes. But there are other situations in which this bird will call, including courting, to give a warning and to defend territory.

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