Family Cardinals (Cardinalidae)

Least Concern

Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra)


French: Piranga vermillon German: Sommerkardinal Spanish: Piranga roja

Fringilla rubra


, 1758,

South Carolina, USA


Proposed race ochracea (described from Trout Creek, near Cane Springs, in W Arizona) is considered synonymous with cooperi. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. r. cooperi Ridgway, 1869 – SW USA (from SE California, S Nevada and C Arizona E to W Texas) and N Mexico (S to NE Baja California, Sonora, N Durango, Coahuila and C Nuevo León); winters C & S Mexico (from S Sinaloa S to Michoacán, Morelos and Guerrero).
  • P. r. rubra (Linnaeus, 1758) – E USA (from SE Nebraska, S Iowa, Ohio and Delaware S to C Texas, Gulf Coast and C Florida); winters from S Mexico (Michoacán, Puebla, Veracruz and Yucatán) and West Indies (rare) S to N South America (S rarely to N Bolivia, W Brazil and SE Venezuela, occasionally the Guianas).
  • Descriptive notes

    17–18 cm; 23·9–38·1 g (heaviest prior to migration), in boreal winter 21·6–32 g. Distinctive, with pale-looking bill, and occasionally... read more


    Song a slow musical carolling of mostly 3-syllable notes, some slightly burry, and with brief but... read more


    In E portion of breeding range occurs in open hardwood forest; W populations found mainly in... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mostly arthropods, including many bees and wasps and wasp larvae (Hymeno­ptera), also some fruits. In Arizona study, prey items... read more


    Season May–Aug in USA. Nest built by female alone, accompanied by male, a shallow cup of dry herbaceous vegetation, lined with fine grass,... read more


    Entire breeding population migratory, wintering mainly from C & S Mexico S to W Ecuador, N... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Widespread and fairly common to common breeder across USA and N Mexico. Found in numerous protected areas. Utilizes a variety of habitats, including... read more

    Recommended citation

    Hilty, S. (2019). Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra). 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 18 August 2019).