Piranga Olivacea – Scarlet Tanager

Piranga olivacea, or commonly known as scarlet tanager is a medium-sized American songbird that can be found throughout the country. For a long time, it was classified as a member of the tanager family (Thraupidae).

In addition to deciduous forests and pine-oak woodlands, parks and suburban areas with large trees were good places to look for these birds but it and other members of its genus have recently been classified as members of the cardinal family (Cardinalidae).

Quick Overview: Piranga Olivacea – Scarlet Tanager
Body size: Around 7in (18cm) in length and weighed about 28 g (1 oz).
Main colors: Red, Black, Yellow, Gray
Range: United States: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
Migratory Bird: Yes
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: June, July, August, September
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Scarlet tanager Description

Tanager is a medium-sized bird with a brilliant red body and black wings and tail. The bill is heavy and yellow-gray in color. Females commonly have yellowish in color, especially on their underparts. They also have yellow-olive toned in both wings and tails. During molt, the winter male has dull green upperparts and yellow-green underparts, with red interspersed throughout the body. Females and juveniles look similar to winter males but have duller wings and tails, as well as thin wing bars on their wings.

Piranga olivacea- Scarlet tanager
Male Scarlet tanager molting his duller feathers during autumn. Source: Wikipedia


These medium-sized birds are 7in (18cm) in length and weighed about 28 g (1 oz). Their wingspan could range up to 11-12 in (28-30 cm).


Insects, fruits, berries, and buds are among the foods that it consumes but it may also hunt for prey on the ground or catch insects in the air as well.


In addition to deciduous forests and pine-oak woodlands, parks and suburban areas with large trees were good places to look for these birds.


Despite the male scarlet tanager’s bright red coloration, it is difficult to spot a scarlet tanager because they spend the majority of their time high in the canopy of the forest canopy. They usually forage in the upper reaches of the trees.

Piranga olivacea Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Cardinalidae
  • Genus: Piranga
  • Species: Piranga olivacea

Best time of the year to see

The best time of the year you could these birds in the United States is during the summer season (June to September).

Distribution of the Scarlet tanager in the USA

These Scarlet tanager’ distribution in different ranges could be large. From south-central to southeastern Canada, east-central United States, central Arkansas and North Carolina are all breeding grounds for this species. During migration, it is possible to see it further south. Winters are spent in the northwestern United States. The tropical forest of South America.

The Scarlet tanager can be found in the following states in the United States: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin.

Piranga Olivacea – Scarlet Tanager

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