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Scarlet Tanager
Scarlet Tanager
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Thraupidae
many: see text

There are 240 species of Tanagers in the bird family Thraupidae. Thraupidae belongs to the order Passeriformes.

Euphonias and chlorophonias were once considered part of the tanager family, but they are now treated as members of Fringillidae, in their own subfamily (Euphoniinae).


Size and appearance

Tanagers are small to medium-sized 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 often brightly colored, but some species are black and white. Birds in their first year are often duller or a different color altogether. Males are typically more brightly coloured than females.

Most tanagers have short, rounded wings. The shape of the bill seems to be linked to the species' foraging habits.


Tanagers are restricted to the New World tropics. About 60% of tanagers live in South America, and 30% of these species live in the Andes. Most species are endemic to a relatively small area. 18 species live in North America and Central America year round. 4 species are migratory, breeding in North America. They are the Scarlet Tanager, Western Tanager, Hepatic Tanager and the Summer Tanager.Recent molecular evidence indicates these 4 migratory species may be more closely related to the family Emberizidae.

Social behavior

Most tanagers live in pairs or in small groups of 3-5 individuals. These groups may consist simply of parents and their offspring. Birds may also be seen in single species or mixed flocks. Tanagers are thought to have dull songs. Some are very elaborate.


Tanagers are omnivorous, but the diet of tanagers varies from genus to genus. They have been seen eating fruits, seeds, nectar, flower parts and insects. Their foraging technique depends much on what they look for. Many pick insects off branches. Other species look for insects on the underside of leaves. Yet others wait on branches until they see a flying insect and catch it in the air. Many of these particular species inhabit the same areas, but these specializations aleviate competition.

Breeding and reproduction

The breeding season begin in March through until June in temperate areas and in September through October in South America. Some species are territorial while others build their nests closer together. There is little information on tanager breeding behavior so it is difficult say if they are monogamous or polygamous. Males show off their brightest feathers to potential mates and rival males. Some species' courtship rituals involve bowing and tail lifting.

Most tanagers build cup nests on branches in trees. Some nests are almost globular. Entrances are usually built on the side of the nest. The nests can be shallow or deep. The species of the tree they choose to build their nest in and the nest's position varies among genera. Most species nest in an area hidden by very dense vegetation. There is still no information on the nests of some species.

The clutch size is 3-5 eggs. The female incubates the eggs and builds the nest, but the male may feed the female while she incubates. Both sexes feed the young. Five species have helpers assist in feeding the young. These helpers are thought to be the previous year's nestlings.

Species list

Family: Thraupidae

  • Genus Conirostrum, the conebills
    • Chestnut-vented Conebill, Conirostrum speciosum
    • White-eared Conebill, Conirostrum leucogenys
      Bicolored Conebill, Conirostrum bicolor
      Pearly-breasted Conebill, Conirostrum margaritae
      Cinereous Conebill, Conirostrum cinereum
      Tamarugo Conebill, Conirostrum tamarugense
      White-browed Conebill, Conirostrum ferrugineiventre
      Rufous-browed Conebill, Conirostrum rufum
      Blue-backed Conebill, Conirostrum sitticolor
      Capped Conebill, Conirostrum albifrons
  • Genus Oreomanes
    • Giant Conebill, Oreomanes fraseri
  • Genus Orchesticus
    • Brown Tanager, Orchesticus abeillei
  • Genus Schistochlamys
    • Cinnamon Tanager, Schistochlamys ruficapillus
      Black-faced Tanager, Schistochlamys melanopis
  • Genus Neothraupis
    • White-banded Tanager, Neothraupis fasciata
  • Genus Cypsnagra
    • White-rumped Tanager, Cypsnagra hirundinacea
Brazilian Tanager (Ramphocelus bresilius)
Brazilian Tanager (Ramphocelus bresilius)
  • Genus Conothraupis
    • Black-and-white Tanager, Conothraupis speculigera
      Cone-billed Tanager, Conothraupis mesoleuca
  • Genus Cissopis
    • Magpie Tanager, Cissopis leveriana
  • Genus Lamprospiza
    • Red-billed Pied Tanager, Lamprospiza melanoleuca
  • Genus Chlorornis
    • Grass-green Tanager, Chlorornis riefferii
  • Genus Compsothraupis
    • Scarlet-throated Tanager, Compsothraupis loricata
  • Genus Sericossypha
    • White-capped Sericossypha Tanager, Sericossypha albocristata
  • Genus Nesospingus
    • Puerto Rican Tanager, Nesospingus speculiferus
  • Genus Chlorospingus, the bush tanagers
    • Common Bush Tanager, Chlorospingus ophthalmicus
      Tacarcuna Bush Tanager, Chlorospingus tacarcunae
      Pirre Bush Tanager, Chlorospingus inornatus
      Dusky Bush Tanager, Chlorospingus semifuscus
      Sooty-capped Bush Tanager, Chlorospingus pileatus
      Short-billed Bush Tanager, Chlorospingus parvirostris
      Yellow-throated Bush Tanager, Chlorospingus flavigularis
      Yellow-green Bush Tanager, Chlorospingus flavovirens
      Ashy-throated Bush Tanager, Chlorospingus canigularis
  • Genus Cnemoscopus
    • Gray-hooded Bush Tanager, Cnemoscopus rubrirostris
  • Genus Hemispingus, the hemispinguses
    • Black-capped Hemispingus, Hemispingus atropileus
      Orange-browed Hemispingus, Hemispingus calophrys
      Parodi's Hemispingus, Hemispingus parodii
      Superciliaried Hemispingus, Hemispingus superciliaris
      Gray-capped Hemispingus, Hemispingus reyi
      Oleaginous Hemispingus, Hemispingus frontalis
      Black-eared Hemispingus, Hemispingus melanotis
      Slaty-backed Hemispingus, Hemispingus goeringi
      Rufous-browed Hemispingus, Hemispingus rufosuperciliaris
      Black-headed Hemispingus, Hemispingus verticalis
      Drab Hemispingus, Hemispingus xanthophthalmus
      Three-striped Hemispingus, Hemispingus trifasciatus
  • Genus Pyrrhocoma
    • Chestnut-headed Tanager, Pyrrhocoma ruficeps
  • Genus Thlypopsis
    • Fulvous-headed Tanager, Thlypopsis fulviceps
      Rufous-chested Tanager, Thlypopsis ornata
      Brown-flanked Tanager, Thlypopsis pectoralis
      Orange-headed Tanager, Thlypopsis sordida
      Buff-bellied Tanager, Thlypopsis inornata
      Rust-and-yellow Tanager, Thlypopsis ruficeps
  • Genus Hemithraupis
    • Guira Tanager, Hemithraupis guira
      Rufous-headed Tanager, Hemithraupis ruficapilla
      Yellow-backed Tanager, Hemithraupis flavicollis
  • Genus Chrysothlypis
    • Black-and-yellow Tanager, Chrysothlypis chrysomelaena
      Scarlet-and-white Tanager, Chrysothlypis salmoni
  • Genus Nemosia
    • Hooded Tanager, Nemosia pileata
      Cherry-throated Tanager, Nemosia rourei
  • Genus Phaenicophilus
    • Black-crowned Palm Tanager, Phaenicophilus palmarum
      Gray-crowned Palm Tanager, Phaenicophilus poliocephalus
  • Genus Calyptophilus, the chat-tanager
    • Western Chat-tanager, Calyptophilus tertius
      Eastern Chat-tanager, Calyptophilus frugivorus
  • Genus Rhodinocichla
    • Rosy Thrush-tanager, Rhodinocichla rosea
  • Genus Mitrospingus
    • Dusky-faced Tanager, Mitrospingus cassinii
      Olive-backed Tanager, Mitrospingus oleagineus
  • Genus Chlorothraupis
    • Olive Tanager, Chlorothraupis carmioli
      Lemon-spectacled Tanager, Chlorothraupis olivacea
      Ochre-breasted Tanager, Chlorothraupis stolzmanni
  • Genus Orthogonys
    • Olive-green Tanager, Orthogonys chloricterus
  • Genus Eucometis
    • Gray-headed Tanager, Eucometis penicillata
  • Genus Lanio, the shrike-tanagers
    • Fulvous Shrike-tanager, Lanio fulvus
      White-winged Shrike-tanager, Lanio versicolor
      Black-throated Shrike-tanager, Lanio aurantius
      White-throated Shrike-tanager, Lanio leucothorax
  • Genus Creurgops
    • Rufous-crested Tanager, Creurgops verticalis
      Slaty Tanager, Creurgops dentata
  • Genus Heterospingus
    • Sulphur-rumped Tanager, Heterospingus rubrifrons
      Scarlet-browed Tanager, Heterospingus xanthopygius
  • Genus Tachyphonus
    • Flame-crested Tanager, Tachyphonus cristatus
      Yellow-crested Tanager, Tachyphonus rufiventer
      Fulvous-crested Tanager, Tachyphonus surinamus
      White-shouldered Tanager, Tachyphonus luctuosus
      Tawny-crested Tanager, Tachyphonus delatrii
      Ruby-crowned Tanager, Tachyphonus coronatus
      White-lined Tanager, Tachyphonus rufus
      Red-shouldered Tanager, Tachyphonus phoenicius
  • Genus Trichothraupis
    • Black-goggled Tanager, Trichothraupis melanops
  • Genus Habia, the ant tanagers
    • Red-crowned Ant-Tanager, Habia rubica
      Red-throated Ant-Tanager, Habia fuscicauda
      Sooty Ant-Tanager, Habia gutturalis
      Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager, Habia atrimaxillaris
      Crested Ant-Tanager, Habia cristata
  • Genus Piranga
    • Rose-throated Tanager, Piranga roseogularis
      Hepatic Tanager, Piranga flava
      Scarlet Tanager, Piranga olivacea
      Summer Tanager, Piranga rubra
      Western Tanager, Piranga ludoviciana
      Flame-colored Tanager, Piranga bidentata
      White-winged Tanager, Piranga leucoptera
      Red-headed Tanager, Piranga erythrocephala
      Red-hooded Tanager, Piranga rubriceps
  • Genus Calochaetes
    • Vermilion Tanager, Calochaetes coccineus
  • Genus Ramphocelus
    • Crimson-collared Tanager, Ramphocelus sanguinolentus
      Masked Crimson Tanager, Ramphocelus nigrogularis
      Crimson-backed Tanager, Ramphocelus dimidiatus
      Huallaga Tanager, Ramphocelus melanogaster
      Silver-beaked Tanager, Ramphocelus carbo
      Brazilian Tanager, Ramphocelus bresilius
      Passerini's Tanager, Ramphocelus passerinii
      Cherrie's Tanager, Ramphocelus costaricensis
      Flame-rumped Tanager, Ramphocelus flammigerus
  • Genus Spindalis, the spindalises
    • Western Spindalis, Spindalis zena
      Puerto Rican Spindalis, Spindalis portoricensis
      Hispaniolan Spindalis, Spindalis dominicensis
      Jamaican Spindalis, Spindalis nigricephala
  • Genus Thraupis
    • Blue-gray Tanager, Thraupis episcopus
      Glaucous Tanager, Thraupis glaucocolpa
      Sayaca Tanager, Thraupis sayaca
      Azure-shouldered Tanager, Thraupis cyanoptera
      Golden-chevroned Tanager, Thraupis ornata
      Blue-capped Tanager, Thraupis cyanocephala
      Blue-and-yellow Tanager, Thraupis bonariensis
      Yellow-winged Tanager, Thraupis abbas
      Palm Tanager, Thraupis palmarum
  • Genus Cyanicterus
    • Blue-backed Tanager, Cyanicterus cyanicterus
  • Genus Bangsia
    • Blue-and-gold Tanager, Bangsia arcaei
      Black-and-gold Tanager, Bangsia melanochlamys
      Golden-chested Tanager, Bangsia rothschildi
      Moss-backed Tanager, Bangsia edwardsi
      Gold-ringed Tanager, Bangsia aureocincta
  • Genus Buthraupis
    • Hooded Mountain Tanager, Buthraupis montana
      Black-chested Mountain Tanager, Buthraupis eximia
      Golden-backed Mountain Tanager, Buthraupis aureodorsalis
      Masked Mountain Tanager, Buthraupis wetmorei
  • Genus Wetmorethraupis
    • Orange-throated Tanager, Wetmorethraupis sterrhopteron
  • Genus Anisognathus
    • Santa Marta Mountain Tanager, Anisognathus melanogenys
      Lacrimose Mountain Tanager, Anisognathus lacrymosus
      Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, Anisognathus igniventris
      Blue-winged Mountain Tanager, Anisognathus somptuosus
      Black-chinned Mountain Tanager, Anisognathus notabilis
  • Genus Stephanophorus
    • Diademed Tanager, Stephanophorus diadematus
  • Genus Iridosornis
    • Purplish-mantled Tanager, Iridosornis porphyrocephala
      Yellow-throated Tanager, Iridosornis analis
      Golden-collared Tanager, Iridosornis jelskii
      Golden-crowned Tanager, Iridosornis rufivertex
      Yellow-scarfed Tanager, Iridosornis reinhardti
  • Genus Thraupis Dubusia
    • Buff-breasted Mountain Tanager, Dubusia taeniata
  • Genus Delothraupis
    • Chestnut-bellied Mountain Tanager, Delothraupis castaneoventris
  • Genus Pipraeidea
    • Fawn-breasted Tanager, Pipraeidea melanonota
  • Genus Chlorochrysa
    • Glistening-green Tanager, Chlorochrysa phoenicotis
      Orange-eared Tanager, Chlorochrysa calliparaea
      Multicolored Tanager, Chlorochrysa nitidissima
  • Genus Tangara
    • Plain-colored Tanager, Tangara inornata
      Turquoise Tanager, Tangara mexicana
      Azure-rumped Tanager, Tangara cabanisi
      Gray-and-gold Tanager, Tangara palmeri
      Paradise Tanager, Tangara chilensis
      Seven-colored Tanager, Tangara fastuosa
      Green-headed Tanager, Tangara seledon
      Red-necked Tanager, Tangara cyanocephala
      Brassy-breasted Tanager, Tangara desmaresti
      Gilt-edged Tanager, Tangara cyanoventris
      Blue-whiskered Tanager, Tangara johannae
      Green-and-gold Tanager, Tangara schrankii
      Emerald Tanager, Tangara florida
      Golden Tanager, Tangara arthus
      Silver-throated Tanager, Tangara icterocephala
      Golden-eared Tanager, Tangara chrysotis
      Saffron-crowned Tanager, Tangara xanthocephala
      Flame-faced Tanager, Tangara parzudakii
      Yellow-bellied Tanager, Tangara xanthogastra
      Spotted Tanager, Tangara punctata
      Speckled Tanager, Tangara guttata
      Dotted Tanager, Tangara varia
      Rufous-throated Tanager, Tangara rufigula
      Bay-headed Tanager, Tangara gyrola
      Rufous-winged Tanager, Tangara lavinia
      Burnished-buff Tanager, Tangara cayana
      Black-backed Tanager, Tangara peruviana
      Lesser Antillean Tanager, Tangara cucullata
      Chestnut-backed Tanager, Tangara preciosa
      Scrub Tanager, Tangara vitriolina
      Green-capped Tanager, Tangara meyerdeschauenseei
      Rufous-cheeked Tanager, Tangara rufigenis
      Golden-naped Tanager, Tangara ruficervix
      Metallic-green Tanager, Tangara labradorides
      Blue-browed Tanager, Tangara cyanotis
      Blue-necked Tanager, Tangara cyanicollis
      Golden-hooded Tanager, Tangara larvata
      Masked Tanager, Tangara nigrocincta
      Spangle-cheeked Tanager, Tangara dowii
      Green-naped Tanager, Tangara fucosa
      Beryl-spangled Tanager, Tangara nigroviridis
      Blue-and-black Tanager, Tangara vassorii
      Black-capped Tanager, Tangara heinei
      Sira Tanager, Tangara phillipsi
      Silver-backed Tanager, Tangara viridicollis
      Straw-backed Tanager, Tangara argyrofenges
      Black-headed Tanager, Tangara cyanoptera
      Opal-rumped Tanager, Tangara velia
      Opal-crowned Tanager, Tangara callophrys
  • Genus Iridophanes
    • Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Iridophanes pulcherrima
  • Genus Pseudodacnis
    • Turquoise Dacnis-Tanager, Pseudodacnis hartlaubi
  • Genus Dacnis, the dacnises
    • White-bellied Dacnis, Dacnis albiventris
      Black-faced Dacnis, Dacnis lineata
      Yellow-bellied Dacnis, Dacnis flaviventer
      Black-legged Dacnis, Dacnis nigripes
      Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Dacnis venusta
      Blue Dacnis, Dacnis cayana
      Viridian Dacnis, Dacnis viguieri
      Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, Dacnis berlepschi
  • Genus Chlorophanes
    • Green Honeycreeper, Chlorophanes spiza
  • Genus Cyanerpes, the honeycreepers
    • Short-billed Honeycreeper, Cyanerpes nitidus
      Shining Honeycreeper, Cyanerpes lucidus
      Purple Honeycreeper, Cyanerpes caeruleus
      Red-legged Honeycreeper, Cyanerpes cyaneus
  • Genus Xenodacnis
    • Tit-like Dacnis, Xenodacnis parina
  • Genus Tersina
    • Swallow Tanager, Tersina viridis
  • Genus Catamblyrhynchus
    • Plush-capped Finch, Catamblyrhynchus diadema
  • Genus Oreothraupis
    • Tanager Finch, Oreothraupis arremonops
  • Genus Urothraupis
    • Black-backed Bush Tanager, Urothraupis stolzmanni
  • Genus Nephelornis
    • Pardusco Nephelornis oneilli


  • Isler M. Isler P. The Tanagers a Natural History, Distribution, and Identification. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press: 1987. 404 p.
  • Bent, A. Life Histories of Blackbirds, Orioles, Tanagers, and Allies. New York:Dover Publications:1965. 549 p.
  • Naoki, K. 2003. Evolution of Ecological Diversity in the Neotropical Tanagers of the Genus Tangara (Aves: Thraupidae). Dissertation available online, given to Louisiana State University.
  • Greeney, H. 2005. Nest and eggs of the Yellow-whiskered Bush Tanager in Eastern Ecuador. Ornitologia Neotropical 16: 437- 438.
  • Infonatura. 2005 June. Birds, mammals, and amphibians of Latin America Accessed 2006 March 4.
  • Montereybay. 2000 July. 6-11. Tanagers: Thraupidae Accessed 2006 March 4.

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