The Western tanager (Piranga ludoviciana), is a medium-sized American songbird. Formerly placed in the tanager family (Thraupidae), other members of its genus and it are classified in the cardinal family (Cardinalidae). The plumage and vocalizations of the Western tanager are similar to other members of the cardinal family.
Adult Western tanagers have pale, stout pointed bills, yellow underparts, and light wing bars. Adult males have a bright red face and a yellow nape, shoulder, and rump, with black upper back, wings, and tail; in non-breeding plumage, the head has no more than a reddish cast and the body has an olive tinge. Females have yellow heads and are olive on the back, with dark wings and tails.Show Less
Western tanagers breed along the western coast of North America from southeastern Alaska south to northern Baja California, Mexico. Their range extends east to western Texas and north through central New Mexico, central Colorado, extreme northwest Nebraska, and areas of western South Dakota to southern Northwest Territories, Canada. These birds are migratory and winter from central Costa Rica north through Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala to southern Baja California Sur and extreme southeastern Sonora in western Mexico and to southern Tamaulipas in northeastern Mexico. During the breeding season, Western tanagers inhabit coniferous forests and mixed woodlands. During migration, they prefer lowland woodlands of Southern California, desert oases, riparian areas, low-canopied scrub forests, forest edges, coffee plantations, parks, and orchards.
Western tanagers are generally solitary birds. They spend time in pairs during the breeding season and may also migrate in groups of up to 30 birds. These birds are diurnal spending the day foraging in forest canopies. They obtain their food by foliage gleaning and hawking. Their common call is described as ‘pit-er-ick’ and the song of disconnected short phrases resembles an American robin's but is hoarser and rather monotonous.
Western tanagers are carnivores (insectivores) and herbivores (frugivores). During the nesting season, they eat primarily insects such as wasps and ants, click beetles and wood borers, true bugs, grasshoppers, and caterpillars. During autumn and winter, they consume fruit such as hawthorn apples, raspberries, mulberries, elderberries, serviceberries, and wild and cultivated cherries.
Western tanagers are monogamous and form pairs. They arrive on their breeding grounds in spring and breeding usually begins in May and continues into July. Cup nests are built by the female, take about four or more days to construct, and are made from twigs, rootlets, grasses, and pine needles. She then lays a clutch of 3 to 5 eggs and incubates them for about 13 days. The chicks are fed by both parents, and typically fledge 11 to 15 days after hatching and have been observed with the parents at least 2 weeks after fledging. Reproductive maturity usually occurs at 2 years or older, although some first-year Western tanagers also breed.
There are no known threats facing Western tanagers at present.
According to All About Birds resource, the global breeding population of the Western tanager is about 15 million individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red Lis and its numbers today are increasing.