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North American Tanagers

Four species of tanagers are native breeders in North America, and a fifth species has been introduced. Mature males of all of the native species are brightly colored, while the females and immature males are a more subdued olive-green or yellow color.

The western tanager (Piranga ludovicianus) breeds in conifer and aspen forests of western North America, as far north as southern Alaska. The male has a red head and a yellow body, with black wings and tail.

The scarlet tanager (P. olivacea) breeds in mature hardwood and mixed-wood forests, and also in well-treed suburbs of the eastern United States and southeastern Canada. The male has a brilliantly scarlet body with black wings and tail. The scarlet tanager winters in tropical forest in northwestern South America. This species is sometimes kept as a cagebird.

The summer tanager (P. rubra) occurs in oak and oak-pine forests and riparian woodlands of the eastern and southwestern United States. Male summer tanagers have an bright red body with slightly darker wings.

The hepatic tanager (P. flava) is a bird of oak-pine, oak, and related montane forests in the southwestern United States, as well as suitable habitats in Central and South America. The male of this species is a bright brick-red color, rather similar to the summer tanager. However, the hepatic tanager has a heavier, dark bill and a dark patch on the cheeks.

The blue-gray tanager (Thraupis virens) is a native species from Mexico to Brazil, but it has been introduced to the vicinity of Miami, Florida. This species has a brightly hued, all-blue body, with the wings and tail a darker hue. The male and the female are similarly colored in the blue-grey tanager.

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