Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana)

Western Tanager

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Thraupidae | [latin] Piranga ludoviciana | [UK] Western Tanager | [FR] Piranga a tete rouge | [DE] Kiefertangare | [ES] Tangara capucha roja | [NL] Louisiana-tangare


Monotypic species

Physical charateristics

The only regular United States tanager with strong wing bars. Male: Yellow, with black back, wings, and tail, two wing bars, and a red head.
The red disappears in autumn and winter. Female:
Yellowish below; dull olive above, with white and yellow wing bars. Resembles female orioles, but the tail and sides of the face are darker, and the bill is less sharply pointed.

Listen to the sound of Western Tanager

[audio:http://www.aviflevoland.nl/sounddb/W/Western Tanager.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 28 cm wingspan max.: 30 cm
size min.: 16 cm size max.: 19 cm
incubation min.: 12 days incubation max.: 13 days
fledging min.: 10 days fledging max.: 11 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 5  


North America : West


Open conifer or mixed forests; widespread in migration. Breeds mostly in the high mountains or in the No
rth, in forest of spruce, fir, pine, aspen, rarely in lower elevation woods, mostly of oak. In migration may occur in any habitat, even desert. Winters in the tropics mostly in pine-oak woods or forest edge. In California, may winter in eucalyptus groves.


Male sings during late spring and summer to defend nesting territory. Early stages of courtship may involve male chasing female among the trees.
Nest: Site is usually in coniferous tree such as fir or pine, sometimes in aspen, oak, or other deciduous tree. Usually placed at a fork in a horizontal branch well out from the trunk, and 15-
65′ above the ground, rarely lower. Nest (probably built mostly by female) is a shallow open cup made of twigs, grass, rootlets, lined with animal hair and fine rootlets.
Eggs: 3-5. Pale blue or bluish green, with brown blotches sometimes concentrated at larger end. Incubation is by female, about 13 days.
Young: Both parents bring food for the nestlings. Young probably leave the nest about 2 weeks after hatching.

Feeding habits

Mostly insects, some fruit and berries.
Feeds mainly on insects, including wasps, bees, ants, beetles, grasshoppers, termites, cicadas. Also feeds on many berries, such as mulberries and elderberries, and takes some cultivated fruit.
Forages mostly in tops of trees. Usually feeds deliberately, peering about slowly for insects in foliage. Also flies out to catch insects in midair. Regularly visits flowers, probably to feed both on nectar and on insects found there.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Western Tanager status Least Concern


Western Nort
h America; winters western Mexico to Costa Rica. In the East, casual, but there are numerous records from southern Canada to Louisiana and Florida, where it is rare but probably regular in winter. Migration:
Protracted migration lasts late in spring and begins early in fall, with some birds seen away from breeding areas as late as mid-June and as early as mid-July.

Distribution map

Western Tanager distribution range map

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