Tanagers are small-bodied birds. The smallest - the Short-billed Honeycreeper - is 9 cm long and weighs 9 grams. The longest, the Magpie tanager, is 26 cm. The heaviest is the White-capped Tanager which weighs 114 grams. Both sexes are usually the same size and weight.
Tanagers are known for being brightly colored. As in most tanagers, only the male has brilliant plumage; it is scarlet with black wings, tail, and beak. The two sexes are usually the same size. Most have short, rounded wings. The male western, or Louisiana, tanager (P. ludoviciana) is yellow, black, and red. Females of these species are olive green above and yellow below.
Only five species migrate to North America; of these the scarlet tanager (Piranga olivacea) has the widest range in the United States. About 60% of tanagers live in South America. About 30% of these species live in the Andes.
Only 18 species live in Central America and North America (not to include Alaska and Northern Canada) year round. Only 4 species are migratory, using North America as their breeding grounds. They are the Scarlet Tanager, Western Tanager, Hepatic Tanager and the Summer Tanager. Most tanagers live in pairs or in small groups of 3-5 individuals. Tanagers are restricted to the New World tropics. (The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition 2006)
The song of the scarlet tanager is less melodious than that of the rosy-red summer tanager (P. rubra) of the South.
Tanagers are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Passeriformes (Perching Birds), family Thraupidae.
Tanagers are omnivorous. They eat fruits, seeds, nectar, flower parts and insects.
Breeding season begin in March through until June in temperate areas and in September through October in South America. Breeds from extreme southeastern Canada to east-central U.S. Spends winters in northwestern South American tropical forests. Most build cup nests on branches in trees. Entrances are usually built on the side of the nest. Most species keep their nest in an area hidden by very dense vegetation. Clutch size is 3-5 eggs. The female incubates the eggs and takes charge in making the nest. The male may feed the female while she incubates. Both male and female feed the young.
Species Research by Sibylle Johnson
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