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Scarlet tanager
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Cardinalidae
Genus: Piranga
Vieillot, 1808
Type species
Muscicapa rubra[1] = Fringilla rubra
Linnaeus, 1766

See species list

Piranga is a genus of birds long placed in the tanager family, but now considered members of the family Cardinalidae. The genus name Piranga is from Tupi word tijepiranga, the name for an unknown small bird.

Similar in shape and habits to the true tanagers, their coloration betrays their actual relationships. They are essentially red, orange, or yellow all over, except the tail and wings, and in some species also the back. Such extensive lipochrome coloration (except on the belly) is very rare in true tanagers, but is widespread among the Cardinalidae.

These songbirds are found high in tree canopies, and are not very gregarious in their breeding areas. Piranga species pick insects from leaves, or sometimes in flight. They also take some fruit. Several species are migratory, breeding in North America and wintering in the tropics.

Taxonomy and species list

The genus Piranga was introduced by the French ornithologist Louis Pierre Vieillot in 1808 with the summer tanager (Piranga rubra) as the type species.[2][3] The genus name Piranga is from the Tupi Tijepiranga, the name for an unknown small bird.[4]

Image Scientific name Common name Distribution
P. bidentata Flame-colored tanager Mexico, and throughout Central America to northern Panama
P. erythrocephala Red-headed tanager Mexico
P. flava Hepatic tanager Southwestern United States (Arizona, New Mexico, and locally in southern California and Colorado) to northern Argentina and Uruguay
P. leucoptera White-winged tanager Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela
P. ludoviciana Western tanager Southeastern Alaska south to northern Baja California, Mexico. Western tanagers extend east to western Texas and north through central New Mexico, central Colorado, extreme northwest Nebraska, and areas of western South Dakota to southern Northwest Territories, Canada
P. olivacea Scarlet tanager Eastern United States. Migrate to Central and northern South America
P. roseogularis Rose-throated tanager Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico
P. rubra Summer tanager Southern United States, extending as far north as Iowa. These birds migrate to Mexico, Central America and northern South America
P. rubriceps Red-hooded tanager Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru


  1. ^ "Cardinalidae". The Trust for Avian Systematics. Retrieved 2023-07-16.
  2. ^ Vieillot, Louis Pierre (1807). Histoire naturelle des oiseaux de l'Amérique Septentrionale : contenant un grand nombre d'espèces décrites ou figurées pour la première fois (in French). Vol. 1. Paris: Chez Desray. p. iv. For a discussion of the publication date see: Dickinson, E.C.; Overstreet, L.K.; Dowsett, R.J.; Bruce, M.D. (2011). Priority! The Dating of Scientific Names in Ornithology: a Directory to the literature and its reviewers. Northampton, UK: Aves Press. p. 157. ISBN 978-0-9568611-1-5.
  3. ^ Paynter, Raymond A. Jr, ed. (1970). Check-List of Birds of the World. Vol. 13. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Museum of Comparative Zoology. p. 301.
  4. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 308. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
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