Family Cardinals (Cardinalidae)

Least Concern

Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea)


French: Piranga écarlate German: Scharlachkardinal Spanish: Piranga escarlata

Tanagra olivacea

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,

New York, USA


In the past, has been been regarded as most closely related to P. ludoviciana, in part due to limited hybridization with latter species, but cladistic analysis based on mitochondrial DNA indicates that they are not each other’s closest relative. P. ludoviciana appears to be most closely related to P. bidentata and the “P. flava group”, the three forming a clade; depending on analyses used, the present species would be either a sister taxon to this clade, or sister to this clade and P. rubra. Monotypic.


E Canada (SE Saskatchewan [rare] and SE Manitoba E to S Quebec and Nova Scotia) S in E USA to N Arkansas, N Alabama, W North Carolina and Virginia and W to E South Dakota and E Kansas. Migrates to Panama and NW South America, mainly in W Amazon Basin from Colombia, E Ecuador and E Peru S to C Bolivia.

Descriptive notes

17–18 cm; 23·5–33 g, prior to migration 32–38 g. Male breeding is bright red, with contrasting jet-black scapulars, upper­wing-coverts, flight-... read more


Song of male, from very high perches when establishing territory (somewhat lower once nesting... read more


Breeds in humid E deciduous hardwood forests and mixed pine–oak (Pinus... read more

Food and feeding

Mostly insectivorous during breeding. Principal food hymenopterans, lepidopterans (especially caterpillars and moths) and both adult and... read more


Season May–Jul; single brood. Males arrive before females on breeding grounds and establish territories. Territory boundaries... read more


Migratory; entire population makes post-breeding movement through Central America and a few through... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Widespread and fairly common to common in breeding area, where found in numerous national forests and other national protected areas... read more

Recommended citation

Hilty, S. (2019). Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea). 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 17 June 2019).