8 Surprising Facts About Tanagers

Take a peek into the vibrant world of North American tanagers. Learn about tanagers' nests, plumage and their favorite foods.

1. Flame-Colored Tanagers Are Rare in the U.S.

A flame-colored tanager was spotted in the U.S. for the first time in 1985. The species is still a rare visitor in Arizona’s Chiricahua Mountains. Here’s where to find flame-colored and hepatic tanagers.

scarlet tanagerCourtesy Peter Brannon
Scarlet tanager

2. Tanagers Nest in Tall Trees

Look to the treetops for tanager birds and their nests. The birds construct homes on branches as high as 75 feet. Check out proven tips to attract nesting birds.

western tanagerCourtesy Susan Forde
Western tanager in Blythe, California

3. Look for Western Tanagers Up North

Western tanagers breed farther north than any other tanager. Their northernmost range stretches into Canada’s Northwest Territories, where it’s so cold that they may stay only two months before heading south.

Meet the boreal birds of the northwoods.

4. Learn to ID North American Tanager Species

Five tanager species are found in North America: summer, scarlet, western, hepatic, and flame-colored. Learn how to attract orioles and tanagers with grape jelly.

summer tanagerCourtesy Cassie Brooke
Male summer tanager

5. Only Bird With Completely Red Plumage

There are a few mostly red birds (northern cardinals, pine grosbeaks, vermillion flycatchers) in North America, but the male summer tanager is the only one with completely red coloring. Check out 9 birds that look like cardinals.

6. Western Birds Have Longer Bills and Tails

Summer tanagers in the west have 15 percent longer bills and tails than the ones in the east. Learn more about western birds and their eastern counterparts.

7. Tanagers Eat Berries

Attract scarlet tanagers to your backyard with berry-producing trees and shrubs. Six that will do the trick: raspberry, huckleberry, serviceberry, mulberry, strawberry, and chokeberry. Do scarlet tanagers eat oranges?

8. Tanagers Help Control Caterpillars

People once believed that a scarlet tanager could eat 2,000 gypsy moth caterpillars in an hour. That’s false, but these birds do help control pests.

Kirsten Schrader
Kirsten is the executive editor of Birds & Blooms. She's been with the brand in various roles since 2007. She has many favorite birds (it changes with the seasons), but top picks include the red-headed woodpecker, Baltimore oriole and rose-breasted grosbeak. Her bucket list bird is the painted bunting.