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Hepatic Tanager

Piranga flava

Length: 8 inches Wingspan: 12.5 inches Seasonality: Non-resident in South Dakota
ID Keys: Males red overall, brighter on cap and throat, thick gray bill.  Females orange throat and forehead, mostly grayish otherwise

Hepatic Tanager - Piranga flavaThe Hepatic Tanager is a large tanager of the tropics, with a summer range that crosses into the U.S. in the southwestern states.  They are somewhat similar in appearance to the Summer Tanager, but the males are generally duller in color, with a "liver-red" coloring (hence the name "Hepatic" Tanager). Females are much plainer in appearance, with a orangish-yellow throat, forehead, and tail contrasting with a grayish overall plumage on the body.


In the United States portion of their range, Hepatic Tanagers are found in semi-open pine and pine-oak forests, with a semi-open forest canopy and without a dense forest understory. They can be found in a very wide array of forested habitats in Central and South America.


Feeds mostly on insects and spiders, but Hepatic Tanagers will also feed heavily on fruits and berries when available. They will also sometimes feed on nectar.


Forages by deliberately moving through the forest canopy, pausing occasionally as it searches for insects.  Insects are gleaned from foliage and branches, and occasionally may be caught in flight.  Most of the foraging is done in the tree canopy, but they will also sometimes forage lower in the underbrush of a forest.


The nest is a cup built of grasses and weed stems, placed in a tree, often quite high up in the branches.  The female lays between 3 and 5 eggs.  Both parents help feed the young after the eggs hatch.


 Slow melodic series of phrases, with clear pauses between phrases. They also have a short t-chek call.


Considered a permanent resident throughout most of their range in Mexico.  Birds at the northern edge of their range, including those summering in the United States, often move southward for the winter, although a few may linger in the U.S.

Interactive eBird Map:

Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Hepatic Tanager sightings

Similar Species:

There are three other tanager species that could be confused with a Hepatic Tanager, but only two that would be likely to cross paths with one:

Summer Tanager - Piranga rubra Western Tanager 4 - Piranga ludoviciana Scarlet Tanager 3 - Piranga olivacea Scarlet Tanager 2 - Piranga olivacea
Summer Tanager Western Tanager Scarlet Tanager male Scarlet Tanager female

Conservation Status:

The Hepatic Tanager has a wide geographic range, throughout much of Mexico, Central American, and South America. Within that range, they are common in many areas, and overall populations are strong. In the United States, systematic surveys indicate modest population increases in recent decades, and the range of the species seems to be creeping northward. The IUCN lists the Hepatic Tanager as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

Photo Information:

Photo taken by Francesco Veronesi - Photo licensed under Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License

Audio File Credits:


Click below for a higher-resolution map
Hepatic Tanager - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Non-resident in South Dakota

Additional Hepatic Tanager Photos

Hepatic Tanager 1 - Piranga flavaHepatic Tanager 2 - Piranga flavaHepatic Tanager 3 - Piranga flavaHepatic Tanager 4 - Piranga flavaHepatic Tanager 5 - Piranga flava