Family Cardinals (Cardinalidae)

Least Concern

Red-headed Tanager (Piranga erythrocephala)


French: Piranga érythrocéphale German: Rotkopfkardinal Spanish: Piranga cabecirroja

Spermagra erythrocephala


, 1827,

Temascaltepec, Mexico


This species and P. leucoptera have sometimes been placed in a separate genus, Spermagra, but recent DNA work does not support such treatment. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. e. candida Griscom, 1934 – NW Mexico from S Sonora and S Chihuahua S to Jalisco; outside breeding season recorded S to Michoacán and México.
  • P. e. erythrocephala (Swainson, 1827) – SC & S Mexico (Jalisco S to E Oaxaca at Isthmus of Tehuantepec).
  • Descriptive notes

    15 cm; 19·9–24·5 g. Male nominate race has black lores and narrow black eyering, rest of head (except rear crown), throat and foreneck geranium-red, ending in short crest at... read more


    Song a long, slow, throaty series of single or double notes, e.g. “chur chew che-wier chéé-chur wee... read more


    Semi-humid and moist montane forest and pine–oak (PinusQuercus) associations,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects and small fruits, including blackberries (Rubus) and berries of a Solanum. Forages in pairs and small groups (... read more


    Nest a cup of fine twigs and other plant material, at middle heights or high in outer canopy of tree. No other information.


    Some southward movements within Mexico during non-breeding season; seasonal elevational movements... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Locally fairly common along almost entire Pacific slope of Mexico. Occurs in a number of protected sites, including Cumbres de Majalca National Park... read more

    Recommended citation

    Hilty, S. (2019). Red-headed Tanager (Piranga erythrocephala). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 19 June 2019).