Photo: Rick & Nora Bowers/Vireo

Hepatic Tanager

Piranga flava

In mountain forests of the Southwest, this tanager is fairly common in summer among the pines and oaks. Members of a pair are often found foraging together, moving about rather slowly in the tall pines as they search deliberately for insects in the foliage. The name "Hepatic" is a reference to the color of the male, a more liver-red or duller shade than that of our other red tanagers.
Conservation status Has probably declined in some areas of Southwest in recent decades. Nests may be parasitized fairly often by cowbirds.
Family Cardinals, Grosbeaks and Buntings
Habitat Open mountain forests, oaks, pines. In our area, breeds at middle elevations in mountains and canyons, in forest of oaks and tall pines; also in some regions in low pinyon pine woods with a scattering of taller trees. In the tropics, lives mostly in the mountains, also locally in lowland pine savanna.
In mountain forests of the Southwest, this tanager is fairly common in summer among the pines and oaks. Members of a pair are often found foraging together, moving about rather slowly in the tall pines as they search deliberately for insects in the foliage. The name "Hepatic" is a reference to the color of the male, a more liver-red or duller shade than that of our other red tanagers.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male
  • adult female
  • adult male
Feeding Behavior

Forages rather slowly and deliberately, hopping along branches and pausing to peer about at the foliage. Mostly feeds high in trees, but sometimes forages in low shrubs and rarely on the ground. Sometimes flies out to catch insects in mid-air.


Eggs

3-5, typically 4. Bluish green, with brown spots often concentrated at the larger end. Incubation behavior and length of incubation period not well known. Young: Probably both parents feed the nestlings. Age at which the young leave the nest is not well known.


Young

Probably both parents feed the nestlings. Age at which the young leave the nest is not well known.

Diet

Mainly insects, also berries. Apparently feeds largely on insects, including caterpillars and beetles, probably many others. Also eats berries and small fruits, especially in late summer, including wild grapes.


Nesting

Male sings to defend nesting territory. Nest site is in tall tree, often pine, oak, or sycamore, usually 15-50' above the ground. Usually placed at a fork of a horizontal branch well out from the trunk. Nest is a shallow open cup made of grass and weed stems, lined with fine grass. Apparently built mostly by the female, although male may accompany her and may help carry nest material.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Probably only a short-distance migrant, retreating into Mexico in fall; a few may stay through winter in southern Arizona. Strays sometimes reach California coast, and have wintered there.

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Migration

Probably only a short-distance migrant, retreating into Mexico in fall; a few may stay through winter in southern Arizona. Strays sometimes reach California coast, and have wintered there.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Strong short phrases, whistled vireo-fashion at even intervals; each phrase may rise, fall, or remain on the same tone. Call notes are a low chup and an inquisitive wheet?
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

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Read more: climate.audubon.org
Tanagers Perching Birds

Hepatic Tanager

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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