Summer Tanager Care Sheet

Scientific Facts

Common NameSummer Tanager
Scientific NamePiranga Rubra
Life Span5 years
Size8 inches
HabitatGroves, woods
Country of OriginNorth of Mexico

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Physical Description

Popularly known in Tennessee as the “Summer Redbird” to differentiate it from the other red birds of the South. Summer Tanagers are included in the list of the most astonishing birds that create nests in the state. It can be slightly hard to see; nevertheless, these creatures opt to search madly for food up in the tree canopy.

Summer Tanager is the only bird in North America that is completely red.  The male Summer Tanager is strawberry-colored with a blackish-gray or black wash on the main flight feathers as well as a far-off gray wash on the tip of the tail and its wings. The range of the wash may differ, and these creatures commonly exhibit a solid red color, particularly in dazzling sunlight. The feet and legs of the male Summer Tanagers are dark. The female Summer Tanagers are mustard-yellow with a touch of tanner olive-green shade on their upper portions, as well as a similar blackish wash on the tip of their tail and on their wings too. Some adult females seemingly to become partially or even entirely pigmented just like the males, with their plumage that ranges from yellow to orange-red to becoming red. Some females may exhibit a spotty plumage with some red shades that are distributed throughout the body. Common immature male Summer Tanagers have a unique splotched or spotted plumage with red and orange-red patches on a diversely yellowish plumage. These creatures are rather easily discerned from the Western Tanager birds.

These birds are medium in size. They are stout songbirds with huge bodies and huge heads. Their rounded-tipped bills are thick and large. It is believed that their longer beak is required to catch the bee, and it’s offensive stinger a secure distance from their face. They have a dark set of eyes. Juveniles, closely look the same with the adult females; however, as the males get matured, you will notice that they form mottled or smudgy red and yellow plumage. Knowing that those color smudges can get very striking, it is not impossible to mistaken these juveniles for mature birds with foreign markings. Compared to other kinds of tanager birds, Summer Tanagers are larger. They measure around 17 centimeters long and have an approximate weight of 30 grams.

Summer Tanager is easily mistaken as a Scarlet Tanager. However, there are still distinctions between the two. The adult males are identified from the Scarlet Tanager through their duller plumage, with much orange-red or rose compared to the Scarlet.


The longest lifespan that is recorded for a Summer Tanager is 5 years. There are plenty of contributing factors to the length of the lives of these birds. If their habitat is preserved and they get to eat their ideal diet, then it is not unusual that these birds can even live longer than 5 years.

Eating Habits

Summer Tanagers are characterized as insectivorous and shall eat a huge variety, both flying and non-flying insects like dragonflies, bugs, beetles, and cicadas. They scrounge on treetops. They move fairly wilfully, delaying to peer around. They commonly do short flights to catch flying insects in the middle air, or temporarily drift while collecting them from branches or leaves.

These creatures are not choosy. They shall capture any wasp or bee, with or without a stinger. Tanagers chase by simply sitting on perches and lingering. The moment they eye a bee, they dart out, rip it out from the air, flies back to the direction of the perch, and forge it senseless. Once the bee loses its life, the bird takes out the harmful stinger by hitting it repeatedly on the branch. Once it eliminates the stinger, the bee goes down the hatch.

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Sleeping Habits

These birds commonly sleep during night-time, although there are times that they do quick naps during the daytime.

Development and Reproduction

Summer Tanagers look for nest-venue 2 to 4 weeks after reaching the breeding grounds. The male and the female appear to explore together. They breed once every year and able to raise one brood each summer. These birds are sequentially monogamous, which means that they only keep single mates throughout the entire season of breeding, but not naturally in succeeding seasons. The pairs for breeding form immediately after getting on the breeding foundation in the spring, and break off after the juvenile scatter late in the season of breeding. After the formation of breeding pairs, the female starts to build the nest. She creates a nest that is built from grasses and dried plants. It is normally created on a branch that is 10.5 meters from the ground. The male would often tail her; however, you cannot see the male participating in the building of the nest.

Open-cup nests are built from weeds, dried grasses, bark strips, spider webs, and leaves. Female naturally contrives the materials. It is commonly a sloppy construction, so slim that eggs can be viewed from the bottom part. In other portions of the range, specifically in the western section, the nest is well built. She bounds the nest with first-rate grasses. The building of nest has been noted to occur as soon as the last week of April, with the laying of eggs happening by the middle of May. The peak nesting venture happens from the middle of May to the early period of July, carrying on into August. The first broods fledge either in the middle or late part of June, with many pairs nesting again with their next broods in the late part of July.

The chicks are mainly fed with whole food, although there is some regurgitated food given to them. After reaching 8 to 10 days old, these chicks would opt to abandon the nest, and on the tenth day, they can do short, edgy flights. The adults Summer Tanager would nourish the young within 2 to 4 weeks after fledging.

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How to Breed

Determining the Sexes

Summer Tanagers are sexually dimorphic. This means that the male and female Summer Tanagers look distinct; thus, it is crucial to learn more other than the color to appropriately discern a Summer Tanager. The adult male is conspicuous – completely dazzling red – and acquires its blazing plumage by the last part of its second year. The female is mustard-yellow, with greener upper portions and wings. Some of the females may exhibit a pale red combination in the plumage or may not have orange tones, looking quite similar to young female scarlet tanagers. Although both sexes share common shape characteristics, the color of their plumage is considerably distinct.

Courtship and Mating

The male Summer Tanager sings on spring season to protect the nesting territory. During the early period of courtship, the male would often hound the female. During this time, you would notice some physical interaction occurring between the male and the female Summer Tanagers. Courtship starts with repeated, swift, dynamic pursuits by the male to the female. The male Summer Tanager may also demonstrate before the female Summer Tanager, bringing foods and hopping around.

The male Summer Tanager would reach on the breeding grounds in a complete song, normally a few days before the arrival of the female. Territorial frictions happen when the male reaches this breeding ground in the middle of April to the latter part of May. The male would fight for his territories and may create physical contacts after hunting. Similar kinds of hunts can be linked-to females during the process of courtship.

Nests are often seen in trees, pines, cottonwoods, or oaks. Secured on a horizontal branch, commonly out from the trunk and 10 to 35 feet from the ground. The nest is relatively made from a hollow cup of grass, leaves, weed stems, Spanish moss, spiderwebs, and bark strips, bounded with fine grass. Seemingly formed by the female, although the male Summer Tanager escorts her during the process of building the nest. The male protects the nesting as well as the feeding areas. They set up borders through intensive singing and calling, hunting away from the rivals from the territories. Reciprocal actions with the neighborhood quickly diminish once territories are built. During courtship, mates are seen feeding together. Copulation happens when the female poses by stretching outwards its wings and lifting upwards its tails.

Eggs and Incubation

The laying of the egg immediately starts after the completion of the nest. The female Summer Tanagers commonly produce 3 to 5 eggs, which are glossy and smooth. The eggs are either blue-green or pale green, with gray and brown marks. The eggs as sometimes full-bodied at the bigger end. The female Summer Tanager incubates her eggs, which normally lasts for 11 to 12 days. During this period, the male Summer Tanager allocates so much time nourishing his feathers. In certain pairs, the male works to feed the incubating female Summer Tanager, who may plead him for some food. Both parents work together to feed their chicks for 13 to 14 days until the chicks become mature enough that they can manage to leave the nest already, although the male may do it indirectly by initially offering the food to the female Summer Tanager, who then offers it to the young chicks.

A mated pair introduce 1 to 2 broods every year, with the second brood more typical in southern populations where the season of nesting is commonly more extensive.

On unusual occasions, the nests of Summer Tanagers may accommodate brown-headed cowbird eggs, although they can distinguish cowbirds and shall hunt them away from their nesting territory. Both parents nourish nestlings.

Geographic Range

Summer Tanagers breed in the entire eastern United States south portion of southern Pennsylvania and northern Illinois, in northern Mexico and the southwestern United States. They winter from central Mexico through northern South America, as distant south as Brazil and Bolivia.

Common Health Problems

Summer Tanagers cannot adjust to various conditions. They are likely to get stress relatively easy. Birds that are subjected to excessive stress are more susceptible to illnesses, chiefly on atoxoplasmosis, and respiratory fungal infection. Hygienic plays an essential role in this.

Iron storage illness is a typical problem in Summer Tanagers. Attempts have been initiated to associate hemosiderosis to blood limits, including transferrin saturation, TIBC, and total iron. TIBC, in particular, has been illustrated to diminish when an iron-insufficient diet is provided to the birds since the TBC heightens in mammals as an output of insufficient iron intake.

Other common risks include avian pox, salmonella poisoning, avian influenza, aspergillosis, trichomoniasis, mycoplasmal conjunctivitis, and West Nile virus. Common manifestations of these illnesses are erratic behavior, visible wounds, growths, or pustules, swollen membranes or eyes, loss of feathers, difficulty in breathing, and too much mucus from the bill or eyes, lack of coordination or poor balance, and poor reactions.

Preventing Illnesses

The initial step toward preventing illnesses in Summer Tanagers is to understand what to check for. There can be plenty of factors why a Summer Tanager can get ill. Feeders must be cleaned. As you regularly clean the feeders, more vigorous cleanings would be essential during the outbreak of disease. The ground should be cleaned too. They should be given the kind of diet that is best suited to them. You should know by now that Summer Tanagers are inclined to eating insects.


Comparably prevalent during the summer season, these creatures travel to other places as far as the center of South America every winter. Throughout the year, they pursue in capturing bees and wasps through their wings, in such a way that they avoid being pricked by their captures. They are known to be wasp and bee experts. They capture these insects while soaring and slay them by whipping them against a branch. Before feeding on a bee, you would notice these creatures to rub the insect on the branch to eliminate the stinger.

Similar to the many birds that travel to places despite the long-distance, these birds store on huge fat deposits to give energy to their long travel.  They are likely to stay justly high in the canopy of the forest, where they can manage to sit and jump out to capture flying organisms in the middle air, or gradually move along the branches of the tree to collect food. The males do a sweet and hissing song that is similar to an American Robin. Their song is musical and flavorful, not fizzling or sharp, just like the song made by the Scarlet Tanager. The male energetically sings throughout the day while in the season of breeding, particularly while working to catch the attention of a female and organize a territory. Some female Summer Tanagers sing a distorted version of the song of the male. Comparably vocal, these creatures are often distinguished by their unique calls. Both genders do a blaring, clicking call, which is applied in different scenarios. They converse through physical displays and vocalizations.

Their calls are loud and clicking, and include two notes “pik-i-tuck.” There can be a different intensity. When close to rivals, the male would create rolled and faster version “prrit-i-tuk-tuk-tuk.” If the Summer Tanager is alone and silent, the call is leisurely “pi-tuk.” During the territorial friction, you can hear grumbling “cheeew.” These kinds of calls are commonly escorted by back and forth flights between perches, and other contentious statures with lifted and winnowed tail, drifting wings and hoisted head feathers.

These birds are migratory. Migratory broods can be as huge as 30 individuals, although it is not determined if these broods fly altogether or just gather together when they reach the ground. They sometimes get along with mixed-species broods, notably on fruiting trees and forest edges. They commonly migrate during nighttime. They do a direct and swift flight.  They commonly sit still on their perch, then be in motion in abrupt bursts. Individuals sometimes sunbathe, and some breeding pairs frequently preen.

Seeing a Summer Tanagers may need some patience because they are commonly in motion rather sluggish in the treetops, commonly staying concealed among the leaves in the trees. These creatures seemingly feel no terror on harsh insects, commonly attacking wasp nests and sometimes becoming an inconsequential blister around the colony.

They are known to be unsociable birds but can be seen in pairs during the season of breeding and migratory, although females are a lot less perceptible in their paler plumage and cannot be distinguished easily. Pairs are rarely noticed by humans because they happen to keep themselves on the top portion of the tallest trees.  If disturbed or feeling endangered, these creatures may lift their head feathers into a bit crest.

As to how their name insinuates, Summer Tanagers are commonly visible during a warmer season. With the exclusion of some individuals, many Summer Tanagers would leave the United States during the fall season to reside in the sunny tropical zones.



During the fieldwork seasons of the project of TBBA way back 1987-1992, experts saw the breeding proof for Summer Tanagers most frequently in the Post Oak Savannah, Pineywoods, and Blackland Prairies sections in East Texas, ensued by the Trans-Pecos, Edwards Plateau, and Coastal Prairies regions.

The extent of breeding of the Summer Tanager stretches east from Oklahoma and Texas to the Atlantic Coast and also the north and southern part of Missouri, the southern New Jersey, and the Ohio River valley, counting out the Appalachian Mountains and south Florida. The greatest comparative abundances were seen in eastern Oklahoma and the Pineywoods. Originating from Texas, the range of breeding stretches west to California and south part into northern Mexico. During winter, Summer Tanagers are seen from central Mexico through Middle America heading to Brazil and Ecuador.

Summer Tanagers are extensive through the southern part of the United States during the summer months. These creatures choose moist emigrating forests with plenty of oak trees. They also prefer riparian areas, and they are commonly noticed along the forest edges.

Summer Tanagers opt to breed and occupy the winter in wide and open woodlands. Summer Tanagers in the eastern part of the United States populate open hardwood forests. In the western part of the United States, these creatures commonly breed in riparian forests of willows and cottonwoods. They are also seen in roadside trees, parks, and orchards.


Summer Tanagers are not considered endangered or threatened. However, they are susceptible to habitat loss. As progress continues, rupture their chosen riparian and forest habitats in both their non-breeding and breeding ranges. Downplaying insecticide and preserving habitat are great ways that can facilitate the preservation of Summer Tanagers, specifically in the western section of their range.

Seasonal Occurrence

Many Summer Tanager birds reach Texas from the late period of March to the middle of May as bizarre to typical migrants. Some stay to breed from the late period of March to the middle of July.


You need to put into consideration the number of Summer Tanagers that can be placed on a particular space as well as the embellishments of the aviaries. For breeding, it is ideal for keeping together a pair.  Daily feeding may cause so much stress on your Summer Tanager, definitely if the birds are placed in a breeding cage where you are very near to the tanager bird for feeding and cleaning.

The dimension of the cage, most essentially the length, can do a lot. If the cage is sufficiently long, the Summer Tanager will always have the feeling of a “safe zone.” The ideal measurement for the cage is 80 x 80 x 250 cm. Also, a useful inclusion to the cage is to set up an additional place so that the male Summer Tanager can be kept outside the glimpse of the female.

These concerns are a lot lesser in aviaries. The detrimental aspect of an aviary is the measurement it has, which can be an issue for people with minimal space. If you maintain the recommended conditions, where there should only be a pair of Summer Tanagers kept in a single aviary, you need to begin assessing the number of pairs that can be kept.

Apart from the people that store Summer Tanagers in breeding aviaries and cages, there are also breeders who place tanagers in a specific tropical greenhouse. If in a greenhouse, the temperature should be regulated, and the Summer Tanagers can have a lot of space. The detrimental sides of a greenhouse are that it is hard to manipulate the process of breeding, and capturing the tanagers can be difficult too.


Diet during the summer season is mostly composed of insects, commonly eminent in feeding on wasps and bees. They also eat flies, bugs, beetles, caterpillars, cicadas, and grasshoppers. They also eat certain spiders. Even though Summer Tanagers commonly feed on bees and wasps. However, if insects are scarce, you will also see these creatures feeding on fruit trees and backyard berry bushes close to their forest habitat. They like to eat whortleberries, blackberries, mulberries, bananas, citrus, and pokeweed, particularly during the late season of breeding, migration, and in winter range. Nevertheless, the main components of their diet are bees and wasps. They commonly assault the nests of wasps until the wasps decide to leave their nests, abandon the larvae for the Summer Tanagers to devour. These birds sometimes catch food from the ground, but they scrounge mainly on treetops, where wasps and bees are captured in flight. The moment a prey is caught, Summer Tanagers would take back the insect to a perch and hit it against the perch until it loses its life. By brushing the wasps on the branch before devouring them, these birds eliminate the stingers as well as the other inedible parts of the body.

Predation and Threats

There is no direct observation concerning the predation of Summer Tanagers. Nevertheless, these birds were noticed to react intrusively to squirrels, blue jays, raccoons, black rat snakes, and Cooper’s hawks, implying that they can be potential predators of Summer Tanagers. These birds do jostle predators, dipping at them and vigorously calling.

The ultimate threat to Summer Tanagers is the elimination of riparian forests. Moreover, the degradation of habitat through fragmentation and the reduction of water tables, complicate the outputs of cutting, clearing, and fires. The demoralization of a once unceasing forest may lead to insufficient cooler habitats. Temperatures, despite in the shade of the leftover scattered cottonwoods, may prevail over the crucial threshold, terminating chicks and eggs.

Regimes of unnatural water, along with the aggression of tamarisk, would also make great threats to the Summer Tanager. Floods that happened in years 1983, 1984, and 1986 destroyed many remaining cottonwoods near the Lower Colorado River, and great soil salinity, lengthened inundation, and fire preferred their substitution by tamarisk. Further, procreation of other bizarre plants like the Russian olive and the giant reed disturbs the appropriate habitat of the Summer Tanager birds. The circulation of giant reed on the marginal slope endangers the habitats into which the Summer Tanager birds could develop.  Fire is a crucial threat to the habitat of these creatures. Flaming of the riparian forest near the Colorado River aids tamarisk while putting at risk the naïve cottonwood. The parasitism of cowbird has not been determined as a crucial threat to the Summer Tanager in California; however, the range of this parasitism stays unsatisfactorily assessed, in part since these creatures nest tall in the canopy.

How to Care for Summer Tanager

Comparably bashful, Summer Tanagers are not typical backyard birds. However, they will make common guests to feeders who give cornmeal mix and peanut butter or various types of suet. Bird-friendly landscaping should be composed of berry bushes, oak trees, and a source of water, and birders must inhibit spraying and trap for the wasps and bees these creatures eat. Backyard birders who also keep plant nectar-abundant flowers or beehives and other bee-friendly plants may find more Summer Tanager birds in their backyard. Their summer and spring diets are entirely composed of insects, thus, encouraging an insect-friendly area can help the Summer Tanager birds – particularly if you are living in an area that is close to a mature forest.

One can also promote an insect habitation for the Summer Tanagers. More important than the considerations, these creatures feed on insects. For these birds, insects are consumed all year-round, which is the main reason why they would migrate during fall when insects become insufficient. Setting up a habitat that advocates on the activities of insects would probably make the best method to handle and care for Summer Tanager birds. And although insects can turn into pests, remember that these creatures and even the insects themselves can serve as essential insecticides.

A common rule for endorsing distinct wildlife is to flourish native species of plants, which have co-expanded with insects to offer then the particular nutrients they require for endurance. Incorporating native plants to the area can ensure the habitation of insects, which hugely improves the likeliness of attracting and caring Summer Tanagers.

Where to Find?

Visiting comparably untouched riparian habitats like the areas surrounding the slower ponds or rivers is vital to find the Summer Tanager birds. You can find these birds higher in shady trees, particularly at fringes where there are abundant insects, and scrounging Summer Tanagers will hover from side to side from similar perch to chase.

Summer Tanagers commonly arrive on their breeding grounds in the United States sometimes in April and leaves, as a common rule, during mid-fall. While in migration, these creatures shield a broad front. A lot of birds would fly continuously across the Gulf of Mexico on their trips south and north. Its chosen habitat is dry and open oak woods, pine, or hickory, however, in many nests in the wooded urban neighborhoods, too.

Summer Tanagers are likely to be seen in an untouched area of land, with multiple layers of canopies on huge trees – either young or dead trees. These creatures are attracted to mature forests with abundant and various vegetation as well as wildlife.

If you are planning to get a Summer Tanager as a pet, then you better wipe it off. These creatures are not meant for pets. Many places are not allowing these birds to be treated as pets. You might just want to learn more about these creatures and witness their actual beauty and behavior by checking on their common habitats where you can easily see them in actual.


Are Summer Tanagers endangered species?

Summer Tanagers are not considered endangered. Fortunately, the size of their population has stayed stable in the United States. The ultimate hazard to the population of Summer Tanagers in the extermination of their forest habitat. Nevertheless, a lot of Summer Tanagers have died every year when they crash into the TV towers during their migration activity.

What are their potential predators, and how do Summer Tanagers avoid their predators?

Summer Tanagers are likely eaten by hawks like the Cooper’s hawks. Their nestlings and birds are likely seized by bigger birds like the blue jays and climbing mammals like squirrels and raccoons. Snakes like the black rat snakes also devour the eggs and chicks of Summer Tanagers. Once a predator comes close to the nest, the Summer Tanager would jostle them by dipping at them and repeatedly calling.

Will Summer Tanagers make good pets?

No, Summer Tanagers will not make good pets. Although there is no question that these birds are beautiful creatures, they cannot do well in a household environment. In various places, it is not allowed to own these birds as pets.

How to differentiate a male and female Summer Tanager?

Summer Tanagers are sexually dimorphic. Determining the sexes of these creatures can be done easily by learning the unique attributes of each sex. The adult male is conspicuous – completely dazzling red – and acquires its blazing plumage by the last part of its second year. The female is mustard-yellow, with greener upper portions and wings. Some of the females may exhibit a pale red combination in the plumage or may not have orange tones, looking quite similar to young female scarlet tanagers. Determining the sexes of Summer Tanager is important, especially if you are working on breeding these creatures.

How do I get the attention of Summer Tanager?

There are various ways that you can do to get the attention of the Summer Tanager.  Primarily, you should have the common things that attract these creatures. You may set up a yard that is insect-friendly, knowing that Summer Tanagers are insectivores. Create a habitat that will encourage the activities of insects. By doing so, Summer Tanagers might get captivated with your insect habitation.

How do I promote an insect habitation for Summer Tanager?

Start by growing native plants. These plants are known to co-exist with insects to give them the necessary nutrients so they can survive. Planting native plants in your area will surely encourage insect habitation.

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