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The summer tanager (Piranga rubra) is a vibrant and unique species of bird native to North America. This colorful creature has been captivating the minds of ornithologists for centuries, due to its stunning array of colors and remarkable behavior in the wild. The summer tanager’s incredible beauty and fascinating habits make it an ideal subject for further study.

Overview Of Species

The summer tanager is a species of songbird that belongs to the cardinal family. It can be found throughout the American Southeast, ranging from southernmost Canada down through central Mexico and across most of Central America.

This brightly colored bird is easily identified by its unique yellow-orange plumage; males have an all-over red head, throat, breast and back while females possess greyish-green coloring with pale yellow underparts.

Summer Tanagers are typically seen in open woodlands or along woodland edges during breeding season, but will migrate south for winter months. During migration they may be observed in areas such as shrubland and gardens.

They mainly feed on insects and fruit when available. Breeding pairs build nests close to the ground amongst tall grasses or shrubs using bark strips, plant fibers, feathers and other materials for construction. Nests usually contain two to four eggs which hatch after about 13 days of incubation. The young fledge after 10–14 days but remain with their parents until fall migration begins.

In North America alone there are thought to be around 500,000 adult Summer Tanagers living within their range each year. Despite this population size it has been listed as one of least concern due to its widespread distribution and lack of major threats outside of habitat loss due to human development activities at certain localities.

Habitat And Range

The summer tanager is a migratory songbird that breeds across the United States, but primarily in the eastern parts of the country. Its geographic range encompasses habitats ranging from woodlands to suburban neighborhoods that have wooded areas nearby. The species has three distinct ranges: its migratory range, breeding range and wintering range.

Migratory Range: During spring migration, summer tanagers breed throughout North America east of the Rocky Mountains as far north as southern Canada. In autumn they migrate southward through Central America or northeastern Mexico down to northern South America for wintering grounds.

Breeding Range: Summer Tanagers typically breed in deciduous woodland forests with plenty of trees and understory vegetation. They are more likely to be found nesting near water sources like rivers, streams, lakes and marshes. In addition, they may also inhabit cleared woodlands and scrubby fields during breeding season.

Wintering Range: During winter months, this species can be found in tropical regions stretching from Guatemala south into Colombia and Venezuela along both sides of the Andes mountain range. Their habitat requirements remain largely unchanged between seasons; however their activity patterns may differ depending on where they settle for the colder months.

In terms of habitat requirements, summer tanagers require open canopy-woodland forest with plentiful low shrubs and trees for cover when foraging for insects on the ground or within tree branches.

Specifically, these birds often seek out overgrown pastures or abandoned croplands to feed on arthropods such as beetles or grasshoppers outside of normal growing times. Furthermore, it is important that there is sufficient food supply available since this affects their health by providing necessary nutrients required for successful reproduction each year during mating season.

Overall, summer tanagers are widespread in North American temperate climates encompassing various types of suitable habitats across wide latitudinal zones during different periods of time throughout the year due to their extensive migratory behavior pattern which spans multiple countries across two continents at different times annually..

Physical Characteristics

The physical characteristics of the Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra) are best described by its bright, contrasting plumage coloration. The head and chest are a deep red or orange, while the back is black with yellowish-green wings and tail feathers. On average, this species has a medium sized body that measures 9 – 11 inches in length and weighs between 33 – 49 grams.

In terms of wing shape, the Summer Tanager’s wingspan can reach up to 18.5 inches; it also features a rather long tail when compared to other birds in its family. Additionally, this species has an impressive bill size that can measure just over 1 inch in length. This larger bill allows them to feed on insects and fruit more efficiently than some other bird species.

Plumage ColorRed/Orange & Black/Yellow Green
Wing ShapeUp to 18.5 Inches Spanning Wings
Bill SizeJust Over 1 Inch Long Bill Length
Tail LengthRelatively Long Tail Length for Family Members
Body Size9-11 Inches Overall Length & 33-49 Grams Weight

Overall, these unique physical characteristics make the Summer Tanager easily identifiable among similar looking bird species. Its distinct combination of colors helps distinguish it from other members of its genus as well as providing camouflage against predators in their natural habitat. It’s clear why this vibrant avian is so beloved amongst nature enthusiasts across North America!

Diet And Feeding Habits

The summer tanager is a highly diverse bird, both in terms of its physical characteristics and diet. It is considered to be an omnivore with wide-ranging feeding habits, which include fruit-eating, insect-eating, seed-eating, nectar-eating, and berry-eating. Various studies have been conducted on the dietary habits of this species and the results consistently indicate that it feeds on a variety of food sources throughout the year.

Insects form a large part of the summer tanager’s diet during breeding season; however, when breeding season ends they switch their focus to fruits and berries for sustenance. The summer tanager also eats seeds from grasses, grains and other plants as well as nectar from various flowers. During winter months they may move between different habitats in search of food sources such as insects or berries depending on availability.

Overall, the summer tanager has adapted to take advantage of local food sources that are available at specific times throughout the year. This allows the species to remain well fed while also reducing competition with other animals for resources due to seasonal variations in what they consume. As such, the summer tanager has successfully managed to maintain its population despite changing environmental conditions over time.

Breeding Habits

Summer tanagers breed in the temperate and tropical regions of North America, with most species migrating to southern states during winter. The breeding patterns are largely dependent on their geographic location; some may migrate while others remain year-round residents. While nesting sites vary depending on region, they generally prefer open woodlands or savannas near water sources such as rivers or lakes.

During courtship behavior, male tanagers will sing a variety of complex mating calls that differ between species. Generally, males perform elaborate aerial displays accompanied by vocalizations to attract mates during the late spring months.

Females build nests within trees or shrubs closer to the ground than other passerine birds. These nests can take up to 10 days for completion, primarily constructed from grasses and lined with softer materials like feathers or animal hair.

Egg production usually consists of three to four eggs per clutch which are incubated solely by females for 12–14 days until hatching occurs. After hatching, both parents share responsibility in feeding and protecting young until they become independent enough to leave the nest after two weeks.

Conservation Status

The conservation status of the summer tanager is concerning. It has been listed as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), but its population decline in certain parts of its range suggests that this assessment may need to be re-evaluated. Overuse and destruction of its habitat, climate change, and other human activities are some factors which have contributed to this trend.

In order to protect these birds from further endangerment, various conservation efforts must be implemented. One such effort is to create protected areas for them so they can safely breed away from any potential threats posed by humans or their activities.

Establishing corridors linking different habitats will also help ensure that the summer tanager can still move freely between them if necessary. Additionally, research into how the species responds to climate change could provide valuable information on how best to conserve it in future years.

Overall, many steps should be taken in order to properly safeguard the survival of the summer tanager and prevent it from becoming threatened with extinction due to anthropogenic impacts on its environment. Taking action now would enable us to preserve one of nature’s most beautiful avian inhabitants for generations to come.

Interesting Facts

The summer tanager (Piranga rubra) is a migratory species that spends its summers in eastern North America and winters primarily in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

It has various nesting behaviors including building nests near water sources, as well as solitary nesters or colonial nesters in mixed species flocks. Additionally, they have varied singing habits with males usually doing most of the singing to attract mates during breeding season.

Summer tanagers are known for their colorful plumage variations which can range from yellow-green to orange-red depending on subspecies. Females lack such vivid colors but rather tend towards duller yellows and greens.

Some winter sightings of these birds have been reported in southern states like Florida and Texas but they do not stay long due to unfavorable weather conditions making them rarer visitors than other migratory birds. Here is an overview of interesting facts about the summer tanager:

  1. Summer tanagers migrate annually between areas located in Eastern North American, Mexico, Central America and Caribbean regions
  2. Nesting behavior includes building nests by water, being solitary or colonial breeders within mixed species flocks
  3. Males often sing loudly to attract mates during mating season

As far as diet goes, it mainly consists of insects during warm months while changing over to berries when the cold comes around; however some populations may also eat seeds year round if available.

Their habitat ranges from woodlands and mountain forests up to 11000ft elevation levels so their versatility allows them to inhabit different types of environment successfully throughout the year where food availability is ample enough for them to survive there comfortably without having to move away too much out of necessity.

All things considered, summer tanagers display fascinating traits that make them a remarkable species of bird living among us – be sure to keep your eyes open next time you go outside!


The summer tanager is a species that has many fascinating aspects, from its range and physical characteristics to its diet and breeding habits. While the summer tanager population appears stable in some parts of its range, there are still conservation concerns due to habitat degradation. It is important for people to be aware of this species’ needs so that it can continue to thrive in suitable habitats across the continent.

In terms of habitat preferences, the summer tanager can be found inhabiting wooded areas such as deciduous forests or riparian corridors. It feeds on insects, fruits, nectar and berries which can be found during different times throughout the year. Breeding pairs construct small cup-shaped nests out of twigs and grasses which they place near high points within their home range.

Overall, the summer tanager is an interesting bird worth getting to know better. Its wide range makes it accessible for observation by those living in much of North America and Central America. By learning more about this species we can help ensure that future generations have the opportunity to appreciate its beauty and admire these birds in their natural habitats.