The Hepatic Tanager (Piranga flava), is a medium-sized American songbird. Formerly placed in the tanager family (Thraupidae), it and other members of its genus are now classified in the cardinal family (Cardinalidae). The species's plumage and vocalizations are similar to other members of the cardinal family.
It ranges from the southwestern United States (Arizona, New Mexico, and locally in southern California and Colorado) to northern Argentina. There are three subspecies groups, which may be separate species: hepatica group, breeding from Nicaragua north in pine and pine-oak forests and partially migratory; lutea group, resident from Costa Rica to northern and western South America in highland forest edges; and flava group, resident in open woods elsewhere in South America.
Members of the northern group are larger and stockier than other Piranga tanagers and have a relatively short tail and a stout bill. Its brightest color is always on its forehead and throat. In all plumages, it has grey flanks, dusky cheeks, and a dark eye streak. The female is yellow, and the male is red. Its average weight is 1.3 oz (38 g). Its average wingspan is 12.5 in (31.8 cm) and length 8 inches (20.3 cm).
Its call is a low, dry chup like the Hermit Thrush. Its song is clearer than Thraupidae tanagers and far more similar to the song of the Black-headed Grosbeak, another member of the Cardinalidae. The flight call is a husky and rising weet.
It looks for food in the foliage of trees, moving slowly and methodically; different individuals use different strategies. In summer, the northern form eats largely insects and spiders, with some fruit. In Mexico it has been observed to eat nectar. From Oaxaca south it follows swarms of army ants.
Even the northern population's behavior and life history are remarkably little known.
- BirdLife International (2004). Piranga flava. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 21 January 2007. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern.
- Remsen, J. V., Jr., C. D. Cadena, A. Jaramillo, M. Nores, J. F. Pacheco, M. B. Robbins, T. S. Schulenberg, F. G. Stiles, D. F. Stotz, and K. J. Zimmer. Version [2009-04-02]. A classification of the bird species of South America. American Ornithologists' Union.
- Sibley, David (2003). The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America. ISBN 0-679-45121-8.
- Eddleman, William R. 2002. Hepatic Tanager (Piranga flava), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online