Red-headed tanager

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Red-headed tanager
Red-headed Tanager (Piranga erythrocephala) (8079395236).jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Cardinalidae
Genus: Piranga
P. erythrocephala
Binomial name
Piranga erythrocephala
(Swainson, 1827)
Piranga erythrocephala map.svg

The red-headed tanager (Piranga erythrocephala) is a medium-sized American songbird in the family Cardinalidae, the cardinals or cardinal grosbeaks. It is endemic to Mexico.[2] The red-headed tanager is around 15 cm (5.9 in) long, the male has predominantly yellow-olive plumage with a red head and throat, while the female has a yellowish forecrown.

Two subspecies are recognised.

Taxonomy and systematics[edit]

English naturalist William John Swainson described the red-headed tanager in 1827 as Spermagra erythrocephala from material collected by William Bullock and his son from a specimen from Temascaltepec in Mexico.[3]

The red-headed tanager and the other species of genus Piranga were originally placed in the family Thraupidae, the "true" tanagers. Since approximately 2008 they have been placed in their current family. It and the white-winged tanager (Piranga leucoptera) have sometimes been placed in genus Spermagra.[4][5][6][2]

The red-headed tanager has two recognized subspecies, the nominate Piranga erythrocephala erythrocephala and P. e. candida.[2]


The red-headed tanager is approximately 15 cm (5.9 in) long and weighs 19.9 to 24.5 g (0.70 to 0.86 oz). The nominate male's forecrown, face, throat, and upper chest are red and the rest of the upperparts bright yellow-olive. The rest of the underparts are olive-yellow. It has a narrow black "mask". The female's forecrown is yellowish and the rest of the upperparts yellow-olive. The throat and chest are yellow that fades to buffy white towards the vent area. The juvenile male looks like a bright female. P. e. candida is similar to the nominate but duller and darker.[7]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The red-headed tanager is endemic to Mexico. The nominate is found discontinuously from Jalisco state south to eastern Oaxaca. P. e. candida is found further north, from southern Sonora and Chihuahua south to Jalisco, and has been recorded further south outside of breeding season. It uses a variety of wooded habitats including semi-humid and moist montane forest, pine-oak forest, evergreen forest, and open woodland with scrub. It can also be found along the edges of forest and in plantations. In elevation it ranges from 900 to 2,600 m (3,000 to 8,500 ft).[7]



The red-headed tanager forages in pairs or small groups for insects and small fruit like berries. It favors the mid level of the trees or higher and tends to stay in the foliage though it will sometimes forage at the ends of branches.[7]


The red-headed tanager's nest is a cup of fine twigs placed at middle to upper height in a tree. No other information about its breeding phenology has been published.[7]


The red-headed tanager's song is "a long, slow ...'chur chew che-wier chéé-chur wee chur cheer chéé-chur ...'" or "tsi-tsi tsee-tsee".[8] It has several calls.[9][10][7]


The IUCN has assessed the red-headed tanager as being of Least Concern.[1] It is found in several protected areas and much of its range outside them also has intact habitat. "[It] seems certain that the near-term risk to this species is low."[7]


  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2020). "Red-headed Tanager Piranga erythrocephala". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2020. Retrieved 15 May 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Gill, F.; Donsker, D.; Rasmussen, P. (January 2021). "IOC World Bird List (v 11.1)". Retrieved January 14, 2021.
  3. ^ Swainson, William John (1827). "A synopsis of the birds discovered in Mexico by W. Bullock F.L.S. and H.S., and Mr. William Bullock, jun". The Philosophical Magazine. 1: 433–442 [437].
  4. ^ Klicka, J.; Burns, K.; Spellman, G. M. (2007). "Defining a monophyletic Cardinalini: A molecular perspective". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 45 (3): 1014–1032. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2007.07.006. PMID 17920298.
  5. ^ Remsen, J. V., Jr., J. I. Areta, E. Bonaccorso, S. Claramunt, A. Jaramillo, D. F. Lane, J. F. Pacheco, M. B. Robbins, F. G. Stiles, and K. J. Zimmer. Version 19 January 2021. A classification of the bird species of South America. American Ornithological Society. retrieved January 19, 2021
  6. ^ R. Terry Chesser, Richard C. Banks, F. Keith Barker, Carla Cicero, Jon L. Dunn, Andrew W. Kratter, Irby J. Lovette, Pamela C. Rasmussen, J. V. Remsen, Jr., James D. Rising, Douglas F. Stotz, and Kevin Winker. "Fiftieth supplement to the American Ornithological Society’s Check-list of North American Birds". The Auk 2009, vol. 126:705–714 retrieved May 15, 2021
  7. ^ a b c d e f Hilty, S. (2020). Red-headed Tanager (Piranga erythrocephala), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved May 15, 2021
  8. ^ "XC575350 Red-headed Tanager (Piranga erythrocephala)" – via
  9. ^ "XC500005 Red-headed Tanager (Piranga erythrocephala)" – via
  10. ^ "XC500961 Red-headed Tanager (Piranga erythrocephala)" – via

External links[edit]