Family Cardinals (Cardinalidae)

Least Concern

Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana)


French: Piranga à tête rouge German: Kiefernkardinal Spanish: Piranga carirroja

Tanagra ludoviciana

A. Wilson

, 1811,

near Kamiah, Idaho, USA


In the past has been regarded as most closely related to P. olivacea, in part due to limited hybridization with latter, but cladistic analysis based on mitochondrial DNA indicates that the two are not each other’s closest relative. Instead, appears to be most closely related to P. bidentata and the “P. flava group”, the three forming a clade; further, vocalizations and several plumage characteristics support close relationship with P. bidentata, and the two hybridize. Birds from Texas, described as race zephyrica, considered to fall within the range of variation of the population as a whole. Monotypic.


S Alaska, and W Canada (from British Columbia and S Mackenzie, N Alberta and S Saskatchewan) S in W USA (E to Wyoming and C Colorado) to SW California, S Arizona, New Mexico and SW Texas, and extreme NW Mexico (N Baja California). Migrates to S California (rare) and mountains of W Mexico (from S Baja California, S Sonora and S Tamaulipas) S locally to Costa Rica and, rarely, W Panama.

Descriptive notes

17–18 cm; 22·5–36 g, in boreal winter 28–34·5 g. Male breeding has forehead and crown, lores, ocular area, malar area and throat rose-red to... read more


Song a series of throaty carolling phrases, much like that of P. olivacea. Commonest call... read more


Open coniferous forest, also mixed coniferous and deciduous forest and mature aspen (Populus... read more

Food and feeding

Mostly insects. Contents of 47 stomachs (Apr–Aug) were 82% insects and 18% fruit: hymenopterans, mostly wasps but some ants (... read more


Season May–Jul. Cup-nest built from twigs, rootlets, grass and pine needles, lined with hair and fine rootlets, and placed 1·8... read more


Migratory; entire population moves S to wintering grounds in mountains and Pacific slope (not... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Uncommon to locally fairly common over large breeding range. Breeds in many national forests and other protected areas. Breeding... read more

Recommended citation

Hilty, S. (2020). Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana). 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 29 February 2020).