Where to Find Flame-Colored and Hepatic Tanagers

Updated: Jan. 25, 2023

In the summer, birders can spot vibrant hepatic tanagers and flame-colored tanagers in the southwestern states—if you know where to look.

Hepatic Tanager maleHal Beral/Getty Images
Male Hepatic tanager in Madera Canyon, Arizona

Hepatic Tanager

Tanagers are colorful songbirds that dot the treetops and call out a husky song across America every summer. In mountain pine forests of the Southwest, from southern Colorado to Arizona and western Texas, a pair of tanagers—a red male and yellow female—might look like summer tanagers at first glance. But the male has more brick red plumage, not rose-red like a summer tanager. These are hepatic tanagers, members of a tropical species that’s very widespread, found all the way south to Argentina. The species actually gets its unique name from the male’s liver-like coloring.

Discover 8 surprising facts about tanagers.

Hepatic tanager (Piranga flava)Global_Pics/Getty Images
Female hepatic tanager

The female of this species is a richer yellow color with gray cheeks. Hepatic tanagers are barely migratory, just withdrawing from the northern edge of their range in fall, and a few can be found in Arizona even in winter. Another good place to look for this species is Big Bend National Park in Texas. Hepatic tanagers eat mostly insects, such as caterpillars and beetles, but also enjoy berries, especially in late summer.

Check out vibrant tanager bird species to know.

Flame-colored Tanager (Piranga bidentata) male, Costa RicaJim Cumming/Getty Images
Flame-colored tanager

Flame-Colored Tanager

The flame-colored tanager is a more uncommon American visitor than other types of tanagers. In fact, these birds were never found north of the Mexican border until 1985, when a single male appeared in Arizona’s Chiricahua Mountains. American bird-watchers have reported several of the birds since, and the birds have been reported nesting in Arizona. But the flame-colored tanager is still considered a rare species in the mountains of southern Arizona and western Texas.

Males are reddish-orange with dark stripes on their backs and distinctive white wing markings. Female flame-colored tanagers are olive green and yellow. They look similar to female western tanagers, but watch for those white wing spots.

Next, learn more about scarlet tanagers.