DistributionThe Scarlet Tanager breeds in Eastern North America, from extreme southern Canada to the northern portions of the Gulf states. It winters primarily in South America, along the eastern base of the Andes and western Amazonia from Panama to northwestern Bolivia. It is infrequently observed and poorly known in its winter range.
DescriptionMale: Flaming scarlet, with jet-black wings and tail. During late summer and fall, male shows splotchy green and red as he molts to yellow-green winter plumage.
Female: Dull greenish above, yellowish below, with dark brownish or blackish wings.
VocalizationsSong: A series of short up-and-down phrases, with a raspy or gravelly quality. Robin-like but hoarse, suggesting a "robin with a sore throat."
Call: Sharp chip, followed by a lower, buzzy note, CHIP-burr. Sometimes the chip is given alone. Calls are given by either sex when there is any disturbance, and at other times, such as early in the morning or late in the evening, when no disturbance is evident. Disputes over territorial borders usually cause males to sing shorter songs more rapidly and to intersperse the songs with chip and CHIP-burr calls.
DietPrimarily insectivorous during the breeding season; common prey include caterpillars, moths, bees, wasps, and beetles. They usually forage in mid-canopy and often sally into the air for flying insects. From late summer through winter, diet includes many berries and other fruit, which may be especially important for fat deposition before fall migration.
Breeding HabitatInhabits a variety of deciduous forests; also occurs in pine-oak woodland, parks, orchards, and large shade trees in suburban areas. In areas where the breeding ranges of Scarlet Tanagers and Summer Tanagers overlap, Scarlet Tanagers tend to occur in areas with significantly higher and denser canopy cover, a larger variety of tree species, a smaller percentage of ground cover, and higher densities of 912" diameter trees than those of the Summer Tanager.
Nest SiteIn a deciduous tree, occasionally conifer, 20'30' above ground (6'75' possible). The nest is placed on a horizontal limb, well out from the trunkusually more than half of the branch's length. The nest is usually built at the junction of two or more smaller branches with the main horizontal branch. Almost all Scarlet Tanager nests have four nest site characteristics in common. Nests are placed (1) in a leaf cluster, or at least with several leaves shading the nest (2) on a nearly horizontal branch (3) with a clear, unobstructed view to the ground below; (4) with clear open flyways from adjacent trees to the nest.