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Overview

Brief Summary

Piranga olivacea

A medium-sized (7 inches) songbird, the male Scarlet Tanager is most easily identified by its bright red body, black wings, and black tail. Female Scarlet Tanagers are green above and dull yellow below with dark wings. Males of this species may be separated from male Summer Tanagers (Piranga rubra) by that species’ red wings and tail and from male Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) by that species’ black face and conspicuous crest, while females may be separated from female Summer Tanagers by that species’ paler back and darker breast. The Scarlet Tanager breeds across much of the northeastern United States and southern Canada south to Alabama and west to Nebraska. In winter, this species migrates to Panama and northern South America. Migrating Scarlet Tanagers may be seen in areas of the southeastern U.S.where this species does not breed. Scarlet Tanagers breed in a number of mature forest types, preferring larger areas of unbroken forest to smaller, more fragmented habitats. In winter, this species is found in a variety of dense humid tropical forests. Scarlet Tanagers primarily eat insects and spiders during the breeding season, but may eat fruits, berries, and earthworms at other times of the year or when insects are scarce. In appropriate habitat, Scarlet Tanagers may be seen foraging for insects on leaves and branches in the tree canopy, in undergrowth, or, more rarely, directly on the ground. Birdwatchers may also listen for this species’ song, a series of whistled notes recalling that of the American Robin. Scarlet Tanagers are most active during the day, but, like many migratory songbirds, this species migrates at night.

Threat Status: Least concern

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Distribution

Scarlet tanagers breed in eastern North America and winter in northern and western South America, from Panama in the north as far south as Bolivia. The breeding range is from southern Canada as far west as Manitoba and east to the Maritime provinces and south through the western Carolinas, northern Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, and much of Arkansas. The breeding range corresponds with the extent of the eastern deciduous forest biome.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native )

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occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Breeding

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Breeding

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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Breeding range extends from North Dakota, eastern Saskatchewan (probably), and southern Manitoba eastward across southern Canada and the northern United States to New Brunswick and central Maine, and south to central Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, northern Alabama, northern Georgia, northwestern South Carolina, western North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland (AOU 1998). During the northern winter, the range extends from Panama (rarely) and Colombia south, east of the Andes, through eastern Ecuador and Peru and western Brazil to northwestern Bolivia (Stiles and Skutch 1989, AOU 1998); apparently mainly in upper Amazonia (Ridgely and Tudor 1989). Recently recorded in Amazonia of Brazil (Stotz et al. 1992). Scarlet tanagers migrate primarily through the south-central and southeastern United States, Middle America, and the West Indies.

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Geographic Range

Scarlet tanagers breed in eastern North America and winter in northern and western South America, from Panama in the north as far south as Bolivia. The breeding range is from southern Canada as far west as Manitoba and east to the Maritime provinces and south through the western Carolinas, northern Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, and much of Arkansas. The breeding range corresponds with the extent of the eastern deciduous forest biome.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native )

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Range

E Canada and US; winters mainly upper Amazon basin.
  • Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/

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Physical Description

Morphology

Scarlet tanagers are 16 to 17 cm long with a wingspan of 25 to 29 cm.  They weigh from 23.5 to 33 grams during the breeding season and from 32 to 38 grams during migration. Mature males in breeding season are bright red with black wings and tails, in the winter they resemble females except for their black wings and tail. Females and immature birds are dull, olive green above and straw-yellow below with dark wings and tail.

Females, immature individuals, and males in winter plumage are sometimes confused with female and immature summer tanagers (Piranga rubra) or western tanagers (Piranga ludoviciana), with which they sometimes co-occur. Some details of plumage color help to distinguish these species, as do their distinctive calls. Scarlet tanagers use a hoarse "chip-churr" call, while western tanagers use a soft "pri-tic" call and summer tanagers use a staccato "pit-i-tuck" call.

Range mass: 23.5 to 38 g.

Range length: 16 to 17 cm.

Range wingspan: 25 to 29 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male more colorful

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Physical Description

Scarlet tanagers are 16 to 17 cm long with a wingspan of 25 to 29 cm.  They weigh from 23.5 to 33 grams during the summer breeding season and from 32 to 38 grams during migration. Mature males in breeding season are bright red with black wings and tails, in the winter they resemble females except for their black wings and tail. Females and immature birds are dull, olive green above and straw-yellow below with dark wings and tail.

Range mass: 23.5 to 38 g.

Range length: 16 to 17 cm.

Range wingspan: 25 to 29 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male more colorful

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Size

Length: 20 cm

Weight: 29 grams

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Diagnostic Description

No other North American bird has the male's color combination (Terres 1980). Female scarlet and summer (P. RUBRA) tanagers are distinguished by the scarlet's yellow-green plumage compared to the summer's orange-yellow. The female scarlet also has a smaller, darker bill (Terres 1980). Where ranges of the summer and scarlet tanagers overlap, positive identification of similar nest and eggs should not be made until a bird is seen (Harrison 1975).

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Ecology

Habitat

Scarlet tanagers are found mainly in mature deciduous forests or mixed deciduous forests with hemlock (Tsuga) and pine (Pinus). They can also be found in younger deciduous forests and sometimes in heavily wooded suburban areas. In the Smoky Mountains they are found from 425 to 1525 meters of elevation, in other mountainous parts of their range they are found at all elevations in suitable habitat. Habitat use in their winter range in South America is poorly known, but they are generally found in mid-elevation evergreen forests, from 100 and 1,300 meters on the eastern slope of the Andes.

Range elevation: 1525 (high) m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest

Other Habitat Features: suburban

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Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Comments: Scarlet tanagers breed in deciduous forest and mature deciduous woodland, including deciduous and mixed swamp and floodplain forests and rich moist upland forests, often where oaks predominate (Bushman and Therres 1988), sometimes in wooded parks, orchards, and large shade trees of suburbs (Isler and Isler 1987, Senesac 1993), less often in mixed deciduous-coniferous forest (Hamel et al. 1982, Hamel 1992). They are most common in areas with a relatively closed canopy, a dense understory with a high diversity of shrubs, and scanty ground cover, and are able to breed successfully in relatively small patches of forest (Bushman and Therres 1988). Breeding occurs in various forest stages but is most frequent in mature woods (according to some sources, prefers pole stands). In New England, nesting occurs mainly in sawtimber hardwoods. Nests are placed in trees (commonly oaks), usually well out on limbs, 2-23 meters above ground. Typical nest site characteristics: 1) the nest is placed in a leaf cluster, or with at least several leaves shading the nest, 2) the nest is placed on a nearly horizontal tree branch, 3) there is a clear unobstructed view of the ground from the nest, and 4) there are flyways from adjacent trees to the nest (Senesac 1993).

During the northern winter, scarlet tanagers inhabit forest canopies and edges, including tall second growth (Isler and Isler 1987). Migrants may occur in more open habitats, such as woodlands, parks, and gardens, as well as forests (Isler and Isler 1987).

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Scarlet tanagers are found mainly in mature deciduous forests or mixed deciduous forests with Tsuga and Pinus. They can also be found in younger deciduous forests and sometimes in heavily wooded suburban areas. Habitat use in their winter range in South America is poorly known, but they are generally found in moist forests in mountainous areas there.

Range elevation: 1525 (high) m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest

Other Habitat Features: suburban

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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

This species arrives in most of the southern United States in April, in the northern states and southern Canada by early to late May. South-bound migration begins in late August, peaks in September and (in the southern United States) early October.

Migrates through Middle America and in smaller number in West Indies. Rare spring and fall migrant in West Indies (Raffaele 1983). Fairly regular passage migrant in Netherlands Antilles (Ridgely and Tudor 1989). Migration in Costa Rica late September-early November and late March-early May (Stiles and Skutch 1989). Arrives in Colombia by October, departs by early May (Hilty and Brown 1986).

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Trophic Strategy

Scarlet tanagers eat insects while foraging in treetops, in shrubs or on the ground. Preferred foods include aphids, nut weevils, wood borers, leaf beatles, cicadas, scale insects, dragonflies, ants, termites, caterpillars of gypsy moths, parasitic wasps, bees, mulberries, June-berries, huckleberries and other wild fruits.

Animal Foods: insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Plant Foods: fruit

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Comments: Eats insects and other invertebrates, and various fruits; diet includes moths, bees, caterpillars, larvae of gall insects, wood- and bark-boring beetles, click and leaf-eating beetles, crane flies, and all stages of gypsy moths, except the eggs. Nestlings are fed insects and fruit. Forages primarily at mid-canopy (6-18 m off the ground). Occasionally descends to the ground or ascends to the topmost tree branches. Searches for insects on leaves, twigs, and branches, examining the substrate in a leisurely fashion. Often picks at dense leaf clusters at the outer tips of limbs (Isler and Isler 1987). Also chases aerial insects (Bushman and Therres 1988). May feed on ground-dwelling prey (e.g., grasshoppers, ground beetles, earthworms) during periods of persistent rainfall and/or low temperatures when flying insects are inactive (Zumeta and Holmes 1978). These authors suggested that severe cases of inclement weather may contribute to a significant several-year reduction in local scarlet tanager breeding populations.

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Food Habits

Animal Foods: insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Plant Foods: fruit

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Associations

Adult scarlet tanagers are eaten by birds of prey, including eastern screech owls, long-eared owls, short-eared owls and merlins. Eggs and nestling predators include blue jays, grackles, American crows, squirrels, chipmunks, and snakes.

Scarlet tanagers mob most predators, diving and swooping around them while calling at them. However, scarlet tanagers respond to American crows and merlins by becoming quiet and watchful, apparently in an attempt to be inconspicuous.

Known Predators:

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Predation

Adult scarlet tanagers are eaten by birds of prey, including Otus asio, Asio otus, Asio flammeus and Falco columbarius. Eggs and nestlings are eaten by Cyanocitta cristata, Quiscalus, Corvus brachyrhynchos, Sciuridae, Tamias, and Serpentes.

When most predators come near, scarlet tanagers mob them. They dive and swoop at the predator while calling at them. However, when American crows and merlins come near, scarlet tanagers act differently. Instead of attacking crows and merlins, scarlet tanagers hide from them.

Known Predators:

  • eastern screech owls (Otus_asio)
  • long-eared owls (Asio_otus)
  • short-eared owls (Asio_flammeus)
  • merlins (Falco_columbarius)
  • blue jays (Cyanocitta_cristata)
  • grackles (Quiscalus)
  • American crows (Corvus_brachyrhynchos)
  • tree squirrels (Sciurus)
  • chipmunks (Tamias)
  • snakes (Serpentes)

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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

Comments: Numerous occurrences.

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Global Abundance

10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals

Comments: Far more than 10,000 individuals.

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General Ecology

In migration, this usually solitary tanager sometimes is found in loosely associated groups and may join mixed-species flocks. Summer home ranges often relatively large for a forest passerine; territory size varies a great deal, reported sizes 0.8 to 12.5 hectares (summarized in Mowbray 1999).

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Communication and Perception

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Life Expectancy

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
121 months.

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Lifespan/Longevity

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
121 months.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 10.5 years
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Reproduction

Scarlet tanagers form monogamous pairs for breeding each season. No studies of banded birds have confirmed that pair bonds last beyond the breeding season. Males use a silent courtship display in which they fly to exposed branches below a female and extend their wings and neck to expose their scarlet back. Females are apparently attracted to the male's scarlet color as well as their posture and movements.

Mating System: monogamous

Breeding occurs from May to August. Females build shallow, saucer-shaped nests in a week or less from twigs, rootlets, coarse grass, and weed stems, and line them with fine grasses and pine needles. They are placed anywhere from 4-75 feet above ground. Four to 5, usually 4, pale blue-green eggs with brown speckles are incubated for 13-14 days. Though they are brooded by females only, both parents bring food to the nest. The nest is kept clean and the droppings are swallowed or carried away in the bill. The young are able to leave the nest about 9-15 days after hatching.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

Average time to hatching: 13 days.

Average eggs per season: 4.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)

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Males arrive in breeding areas in April and May, usually several days before the female, and establish a territory by singing almost continuously from conspicuous perches high in the canopy of mature trees. Territorial boundaries are not rigid and males frequently dispute, especially when the female is present (Isler and Isler 1987, Prescott 1965). Once paired, the male abandons the high perch. The female chooses the nest site and builds the nest alone (Isler and Isler 1987). The nest is built in 2-7 days.

In the mid-Atlantic states, nesting extends from early May to early August, with a peak from late May to mid-July (Bushman and Therres 1988). Eggs are laid mostly in May-June. Clutch size is 3-5 (usually 4). Incubation, by female, lasts 12-14 days. Young are tended by both parents, leave nest at 9-15 days, usually 14-15 days after hatching. The nestlings are brooded by the female for about 3 days after they hatch. During this time both parents feed the young. Fledged young are attended by adult for up to 2 weeks after fledging. Nests sometimes contain young into August. It is thought that only one brood is raised per season (Senesac 1993, Isler and Isler 1987, Prescott 1965).

During the breeding season, females sing a song that is similar to that of the males, and both males and females also produce the "chic-burr" call.

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Scarlet tanagers form mated pairs each year for breeding. Males use a silent courtship display in which they fly to exposed branches below a female and extend their wings and neck to show off their bright red back.

Mating System: monogamous

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

Average time to hatching: 13 days.

Average eggs per season: 4.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Piranga olivacea

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 3 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNAAGGTACTGCCCTAAGCCTNCTCATCCGAGCAGAGCTGGGACAACCTGGAGCCCTCCTAGGAGACGACCAAGTCTACAACGTAGTCGTCACAGCCCATGCTTTCGTAATAATTTTCTTCATAGTTATACCAATTATAATCGGAGGGTTCGGAAACTGACTAGTCCCTCTAATAATTGGAGCCCCAGATATAGCATTCCCACGAATAAACAACATAAGCTTCTGACTACTTCCCCCATCCTTCCTTCTTCTACTAGCATCCTCCACCGTGGAAGCAGGTGTCGGTACAGGCTGAACAGTGTACCCACCACTAGCCGGTAACCTGGCCCACGCCGGAGCCTCAGTCGACCTAGCAATCTTCTCCCTACATCTAGCCGGTATTTCTTCAATCCTAGGGGCCATTAACTTTATCACAACAGCAATCAACATGAAACCCCCTGCTCTCTCACAATACCAAACCCCCCTGTTCGTCTGATCCGTCTTAATCACTGCAGTCCTACTACTCCTCTCTCTCCCAGTACTTGCCGCAGGAATCACAATGCTCCTCACAGACCGTAACCTCAACACTACATTCTTCGACCCCGCAGGAGGAGGAGACCCTATCCTATACCAACACCTTTTCTGATTCTTTGGCCATCCAGAAGTATACATCCTAATCCTG
-- end --

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Piranga olivacea

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 6
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Scarlet tanagers are abundant and widespread, requiring no special conservation status.

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5B - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5B - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Large breeding range in eastern North America; numerous occurrences; stable population; loss/fragmentation of mature forest is a potential threat to population stability.

Other Considerations: ALABAMA: Found in the northeastern portion of the state, from Tuscaloosa northward. ARKANSAS: Common summer resident in extensive upland woods. Chiefly found in the Ozarks and Ouachitas and in smaller numbers elsewhere. Favors higher elevations (James and Neal 1986). CONNECTICUT: Widely distributed throughout the state. DELAWARE: No reply for this state. GEORGIA: No specific information located. ILLINOIS: Common summer resident statewide. Populations speculated to be decreasing. INDIANA: Fairly common summer resident, statewide; most abundant in the northern third of state. Elsewhere, especially south, appears to be uncommon (Mumford and Keller 1984). IOWA: Scattered distribution throughout the state; less common in northwest regions. KANSAS: An uncommon transient and rare nesting species in eastern third of state. Rare to casual westward (Thompson and Ely 1992). KENTUCKY: Uncommon to common summer resident. Breeds in mature deciduous forests throughout the state; most numerous on the Cumberland Plateau and Mountains; less numerous and more local to the west. MAINE: Uncommon, though regular in most of western Maine. Perhaps only occasional to rare in north and east sections (Palmer 1949). MARYLAND: Breeds throughout the state. MASSACHUSETTS: No reply from this state. MICHIGAN: Relatively evenly distributed throughout the state in deciduous woods (Brewer et al. 1991). MINNESOTA: Regular migrant and summer resident. Most numerous in central, east-central, and southeast regions. Least numerous and absent over wide areas in south central and southwestern regions, and in the Red River Valley of the northwestern region (Janssen 1987). MISSISSIPPI: No specific information located. MISSOURI: Found statewide. Indications of population increase 4% annually from Breeding Bird Survey data. NEBRASKA: Breeds locally in eastern regions (Johnsgard 1979). NEW HAMPSHIRE: Fairly common breeder throughout the state. NEW JERSEY: Common migrant and summer resident throughout the state. Probably more common as a breeder in north and central regions than in the southern region. Population is stable. NEW YORK: Common breeder in a variety of forest types. Absent from large urban areas and tracts of mountain spruce. NORTH CAROLINA: Found in the mountains, piedmont, and northwest half of the Coastal Plain. Absent as a breeder near the coast and in some southeastern counties. Population believed to be increasing and distribution expanding eastward. NORTH DAKOTA: Common in the east and central portions; uncommon to rare elsewhere. OHIO: Population stable with indications of increase. Widely distributed throughout the state; more numerous along the entire Allegheney Plateau. OKLAHOMA: No specific information located. PENNSYLVANIA: Common to abundant breeder in east-central regions. In southeast, found scarce and rather local. Breeding Bird Survey data indicate increases in populations (Brauning 1992). RHODE ISLAND: Common summer resident. Widespread in interior portions; noticeably uncommon in coastal lowland regions. Also found locally on larger islands (Narragansett Bay, Conanicut Island). Stable population. SOUTH CAROLINA: Accidental breeder on the coastal plain; probably uncommon in the lower piedmont; fairly common in upper piedmont and mountains. SOUTH DAKOTA: Uncommon summer resident in the east, most often seen in migration; rare migrant and possible breeder in the west. TENNESSEE: Locally distributed statewide. VERMONT: Thinly, but widely distributed through deciduous and mixed woodlands of the state. In the past 50 years, indications of population increases are noted (Laughlin and Kibbe 1985). VIRGINIA: No significant population changes. Common breeder in mature deciduous forests throughout the state. WEST VIRGINIA: Fairly common to common summer resident throughout the state in forested areas. Uncommon in the southwest near Huntington, farther east numbers increase (Hall 1983). WISCONSIN: Fairly common summer resident statewide. Areas with fewer woodlots (south and east counties) may have lower populations. Possible population declines may be attributed to agricultural conversion of forests (Robbins 1991). MANITOBA: During the breeding season, found in a number of locations in the southern province in suitable habitat. All confirmed breeding records have taken place in the southeastern province, except for Riding Mountain National Park records in the southwest. NEW BRUNSWICK: Found mostly in interior valleys with no evidence or reason for declines. NOVA SCOTIA: Very patchy occurrences in rich hardwood habitats; especially north central province. Near absent on Atlantic Slope and Cape Breton Island (Erskine 1992). ONTARIO: Breeds in upland fairly mature deciduous and mixed forests in Carolinian and Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Forest Zones. Historical information indicates stable population trends with some localized declines (Cadman et al. 1987). QUEBEC: No specific information located. SASKATCHEWAN: Possible breeding at Madge Lake and Nipawin.

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Scarlet tanagers are abundant and widespread, requiring no special conservation status.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

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Population

Population Trend
Stable
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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)

Comments: North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data indicate a stable population in North America, 1966-1994; nonsignificant increase of 4% occurred from 1966 to 1993 and a nonsignificant increase of 6% from 1984 to 1993 (Price et al. 1995). Most states report stable populations with some reporting possible declines (Illinois, Wisconsin), and others reporting possible increases (North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania). Litwin and Smith (1992) stated that populations have dropped by 50 percent between 1950 and 1980 at the Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary in Ithaca, New York. They associated this decrease with the loss of vertical and horizontal heterogeneity, and the overall decline in productivity associated with forest maturation. This local study may offer insight to other patterns of population decline.

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Threats

Degree of Threat: C : Not very threatened throughout its range, communities often provide natural resources that when exploited alter the composition and structure over the short-term, or communities are self-protecting because they are unsuitable for other uses

Comments: The greatest threat is the continual loss and fragmentation of breeding and wintering habitat. Specific effects caused by habitat alterations are not clearly understood. Possible effects include increased nest predation by edge species (e.g., raccoons, domestic cats, etc.) and increased cowbird parasitism. Little is known of the relationship between the tanager and its habitat features, especially where habitat manipulations are occurring. Identifying specific threats affecting this species is difficult due to this lack of information. A common host to the brown-headed cowbird (MOLOTHRUS ATER) and the most parasitized of the tanager family. Adult tanagers seem to recognize female cowbirds as enemies and usually attack on sight (Terres 1980, Prescott 1965). Friedmann (1963) stated that this tanager is not among the primary cowbird hosts. Known predators include screech owl (OTUS ASIO), barred owl (STRIX VARIA), long-eared owl (ASIO OTUS), short-eared owl (ASIO FLAMMEUS), blue jay (CYANOCITTA CRISTATA), American crow (CORVUS BRACHYRHYNCHOS), and Merlin (FALCO COLUMBARIUS) (Senesac 1993, Prescott 1965). In addition, suspected predators include gray (SCIURUS CAROLINENSIS), red (TAMIASCIURUS HUDSONICUS), and fox (SCIURUS NIGRA) squirrels and chipmunks (TAMIAS spp.) (Senesac 1993).

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Management

Restoration Potential: Currently reported as common and stable throughout its range with only a few speculations of decline. Population restoration is currently not an issue. However, efforts should be made to maintain populations, thus eliminating the need restoration in the future.

Preserve Selection and Design Considerations: Typically found in relatively small tracts of forest, being absent only from areas less than 1-5 ha (Bushman and Therres 1988). However, block sizes of greater than or equal to 100 ha are probably necessary for maximum densities and/or population sizes (Bushman and Therres 1988).

At this time, specific habitat requirements are not documented. However, suggestions for conserving area-sensitive birds in forest landscapes were offered by Robbins et al. (1989). They concluded that forest areas under 10 ha are unsuitable and 3,000 ha is the minimum forest size that may retain all the species of forest-interior avifauna of eastern North America. However, critical habitat features that influence species success have not been thoroughly investigated (Martin 1992). These habitat features will have a great influence on future preserve designs.

Management Requirements: May occupy clearcut areas as early as 12 years after cutting if some small trees are left uncut. Group selection logging, which creates a mosaic of even-aged patches, may create favorable conditions. Tolerates small or narrow clearcuts, thinning of "overmature" trees, and selection cutting (Bushman and Therres 1988).

Developing and implementing conservation plans will be dependent upon understanding the relationships between landscape structure and the distribution and probability of extinction of local species (Freemark and Collins 1992, Reed 1992). Past management and research investigations correlated landscape features with species presence and abundance. Presence and abundance information does not directly correlate with habitat features. However, species fitness is directly correlated with habitat features by supplying resources (Martin 1992). Martin (1992) suggested that management plans need to consider specific habitat features that have a direct effect on fitness through reproduction and survival.

Reed (1992) suggested that a ranking scheme is needed for future management efforts and research needs. He stated that a scheme that is biologically based (i.e., based on characteristics of species abundance and distribution) can be used to organize research and prioritize conservation efforts. Rankings can include habitat information from breeding and wintering ranges and can be integrated with other ranking systems, such as economic considerations.

Management Research Needs: In order to understand specific management needs, additional life history information is needed. In addition, effects of forest loss and fragmentation need to be addressed. Issues of primary concern are: 1) effects of habitat loss in wintering versus breeding range, 2) specific habitat features (e.g., habitat size, composition, etc) and associated resources that directly influence reproduction and survival, and 3) consequences of those features for coexisting species and any interacting species, and the effects they have on one another (biodiversity approach) (Martin 1992).

Biological Research Needs: Has not been extensively studied in most areas (Senesac 1993). Additional information is needed on breeding behavior, diet and foraging, winter range, and habitat relationships. Is this bird monogamous? How extensive is cowbird parasitism? How many broods per season?

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Global Protection: Many to very many (13 to >40) occurrences appropriately protected and managed

Needs: Protect extensive tracts of mature forest.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

There are no known negative effects of scarlet tanagers on humans.

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Scarlet tanagers eat insects that some humans may consider to be pests.

Positive Impacts: controls pest population

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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known negative effects of scarlet tanagers on humans.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Scarlet tanagers eat insects that some humans may consider to be pests.

Positive Impacts: controls pest population

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Risks

Stewardship Overview: A common forest bird of the northeastern and north-central United States. BBS data indicate a stable population throughout most of the range. Although a lot of information is available about this bird, most of what is known is based on intensive but very localized studies. We need further rangewide information on specific habitat requirements and the effects of habitat alteration (e.g., fragmentation, forest loss, etc.). Continued monitoring is appropriate.

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Wikipedia

Scarlet tanager

The scarlet tanager (Piranga olivacea) is a medium-sized American songbird. Until recently placed in the tanager family (Thraupidae), it and other members of its genus are now classified as belonging the cardinal family (Cardinalidae).[2] The species' plumage and vocalizations are similar to other members of the cardinal family, although the Piranga species lacks the thick conical bill (well suited to seed and insect eating) that many "cardinals" possess.

Description[edit]

The scarlet tanager, a mid-sized passerine, is marginally the smallest of the four species of Piranga that breed north of the Mexican border. It can weigh from 23.5 to 38 g (0.83 to 1.34 oz), with an average of 25 g (0.88 oz) during breeding and an average of 35 g (1.2 oz) at the beginning of migration. Scarlet tanagers can range in length from 16 to 19 cm (6.3 to 7.5 in) in length and from 25 to 30 cm (9.8 to 11.8 in) in wingspan.[3] Adults of both sexes have pale horn-colored, fairly stout and smooth-textured bills. Adult males are crimson-red with black wings and tail. The male's famous red coloration is more intense and deeply red than the males of two occasionally co-existing relatives, the northern cardinal and the summer tanager, both which lack the black wings of the scarlet and instead are an olive or brownish hued red on their wings. Females, on the other hand, are yellowish on the underparts and olive on top, with yellow-olive-toned wings and tail. The adult male's winter plumage is similar to the female's, but the wings and tail remain darker. Young males briefly show a more complex variegated plumage intermediate between adult males and females. The somewhat confusing specific epithet olivacea ("the olive-colored one") was based on a female or immature specimen rather than erythromelas ("the red-and-black one"), which authors attempted to ascribe to the species throughout the 19th century (older scientific names always takes precedence, however).

Female, immature and non-breeding males may be distinguished from the same ages and sexes in summer tanagers, which are more brownish overall, and western tanagers, which always have bold white bars and more yellowish undersides than scarlet tanagers. The song of the scarlet tanager sounds somewhat like a hoarser version of the American robin's and is only slightly dissimilar from the songs of the summer and western tanagers. The call of the scarlet tanager is an immediately distinctive chip-burr or chip-churr, which is very different from the pit-i-tuck of the summer tanager and the softer, rolled pri-tic or prit-i-tic of western tanager.[4]

Behavior[edit]

Scarlet tanagers eat ripe fruit when available, occasionally including ones, such as this orange half, that are set out by humans

Their breeding habitat is large stretches of deciduous forest, especially with oaks, across eastern North America. They can occur, with varying degrees of success, in young successional woodlands and occasionally in extensive plantings of shade trees in suburban areas, parks, and cemeteries. For a viable breeding population, at least 10 to 12 hectares of forest are required.[5][6] In winter, scarlet tanagers occur in the montane forest of the Andean foothills. Scarlet tanagers migrate to northwestern South America, passing through Central America around April, and again around October.[7] They begin arriving in the breeding grounds in numbers by about May and already start to move south again in mid-summer; by early October they are all on their way south.[8][9] The bird is an extremely rare vagrant to western Europe.

Scarlet tanagers are often out of sight, foraging high in trees, sometimes flying out to catch insects in flight and then returning to the same general perch, in a hunting style known as "sallying". Sometimes, however, they will also capture their prey on the forest floor. They eat mainly insects and any flying variety will readily be taken when common, such as bees, wasps, hornets, ants, and sawflies; moths and butterflies; beetles; flies; cicadas, leafhoppers, spittlebugs, treehoppers, plant lice, and scale insects; termites; grasshoppers and locusts; dragonflies; and dobsonflies. Scarlet tanagers also takes snails, earthworms and spiders. While summer tanagers are famous for this feeding method, when capturing bees, wasps and hornets, scarlet tanagers also rake the prey against a branch in order to remove their stingers before consumption.[10] Plant components of their diet consists of a wide variety of fruits that eaten mainly when insects are at population lows including: blackberries (Rubus allegheniensis), raspberries (R. ideaus), huckleberries (Gaylussacia sp.), juneberries and serviceberries (Amelanchier spp.), mulberries (Morus rubra), strawberries (Fragaria virginiana), and chokeberries (Aronia melanocarpa).[11][12]

Breeding[edit]

Male scarlet tanagers reach their breeding ground from mid-May to early June. Females generally arrive several days to a week later. Nest building and egg laying both occur usually in less than two weeks after the adults arrivals. The clutch is usually four eggs, occasionally from three to five and exceptionally from one to six eggs may be laid. The eggs are a light blue color, often with a slight greenish or whitish tinge. Incubation lasts for 11 to 14 days. Hatching and fledging are both reached at different points in summer depending on how far north the tanagers are breeding, from June-early July in the southern parts of its breeding range to as late as August or even early September in the northernmost part of its range.[4] The average weight at hatching is 3.97 g (0.140 oz), with the nestlings increasing their weight to 20–22 g (0.71–0.78 oz) by 10 days, or 70% of the parent's weight. The young leave the nest by 9–12 days of age and fly capably by the time they are a couple weeks old. If the nesting attempt is disturbed, apparently scarlet tanagers are unable to attempt a second brood as several other passerines can. In a study of 16 nests in Michigan, 50% of nests were successful in producing one or more fledglings.[13] In western New York, fledgling success increased from 22% in scattered patches of woods to as much as 64% in extensive, undisturbed hardwood forest.[6]

Threats and status[edit]

Exposure and starvation can occasionally kill scarlet tanagers, especially when exceptionally cold or wet weather hits eastern North America. They often die from collisions with man-made objects including TV and radio towers, buildings and cars.[14] Beyond failure due to brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater) (see below), predation is the primary direct cause of nesting failures. In one study, 69-78% of nests were predated.[15] Recorded nest predators are primarily avian like blue jays (Cyanocitta cristata), common grackles (Quiscalus quiscula) and American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos), although others like squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons (Procyon lotor) and snakes probably take a heavy toll as well as an occasional unlucky fledgling as do cats (Felis silvestris catus). Raptorial birds hunt and kill many scarlet tanagers from fledgling throughout their adult lives, including all three North American Accipiter species, Merlins (Falco columbarius), eastern screech owls (Megascops asio), barred owls (Strix varia), long-eared owls (Asio otus) and short-eared owls (Asio flammeus).[4][16][17]

These birds do best in the forest interior, where they are less exposed to predators and brood parasitism by the brown-headed cowbird. The cowbird lays its eggs in most any other passerines nest and the young often outcompete the young of the host bird and may cause failure and starvation. Some birds have evolved strategies to deal with cowbird parasitism, but the scarlet tanager, being a bird that evolved to breed in forest interior and not previously exposed to this, are helpless victims to brood parasitism. Where forest fragmentation occurs, which is quite widespread, the scarlet tanager suffers high rates of predation and brood parasitism in small forest plots and are often absent completely from plots less than a minimum size. Their nests are typically built on horizontal tree branches. Specifically their numbers are declining in some areas due to habitat fragmentation, but on a global scale tanagers are a plentiful species. Thus, the IUCN classifies the scarlet tanager as being of least concern.

References[edit]

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Piranga olivacea". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ 7.del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Christie, D.A. (2011) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 16: Tanagers to New World Blackbirds. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  4. ^ a b c Mowbray, Thomas B. 1999. Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/479
  5. ^ Robbins, C. S., D. K. Dawson, and B. A. Dowell. 1989. Habitat area requirements of breeding forest birds of the Middle Atlantic states. Wildl. Monogr. 103.
  6. ^ a b Roberts, C. and C. J. Norment. 1999. Effects of plot size and habitat characteristics on breeding success of Scarlet Tanagers. Auk 116:73-82.
  7. ^ Herrera, Néstor; Rivera, Roberto; Ibarra Portillo, Ricardo & Rodríguez, Wilfredo (2006): Nuevos registros para la avifauna de El Salvador. ["New records for the avifauna of El Salvador"]. Boletín de la Sociedad Antioqueña de Ornitología 16(2): 1–19. [Spanish with English abstract] PDF fulltext
  8. ^ Henninger, W.F. (1906). "A preliminary list of the birds of Seneca County, Ohio". Wilson Bulletin 18 (2): 47–60. 
  9. ^ Ohio Ornithological Society (2004): Annotated Ohio state checklist.
  10. ^ Grant, C. (1945). Drone bees selected by birds. Condor, 261-263.
  11. ^ E.g. of Gumbo-limbo (Bursera simaruba). Trophis racemosa (Moraceae), and especially of Cymbopetalum mayanum (Annonaceae): Foster, Mercedes S. The potential of fruiting trees to enhance converted habitats for migrating birds in southern Mexico. doi:10.1017/S0959270906000554. 
  12. ^ Mcatee, W. L. 1926. The relation of birds to woodlots in New York state. Roosevelt Wildl. Bull. no. 4.
  13. ^ Prescott, K. W. 1965. The Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea). N.J. State Mus. Invest. no. 2.
  14. ^ Stevenson, H. M. and B. H. Anderson. 1994. The birdlife of Florida. Univ. Press of Florida, Gainesville.
  15. ^ Brawn, J. D. and S. K. Robinson. 1996. Source-sink population dynamics may complicate the interpretation of long-term census data. Ecology 77:3-12.
  16. ^ Hamerstrom Jr, F. N., & Hamerstrom, F. (1951). Food of young raptors on the Edwin S. George Reserve. The Wilson Bulletin, 16-25.
  17. ^ Meng, H. (1959). Food habits of nesting Cooper's Hawks and Goshawks in New York and Pennsylvania. The Wilson Bulletin, 169-174.
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Mitochondrial genetic data from several studies (Burns 1997; Burns et al. 2002, 2003; Klicka et al. 2000, 2007) provide strong evidence that this genus, previously placed in the Thraupidae, is a member of the Cardinalidae.

May constitute a superspecies with P. ludoviciana (AOU 1998).

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