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Summer Tanager Basic Facts and Pictures

Photos and article by Kathryn Mann

Male Summer Tanager

Male Summer Tanager in Oklahoma forest

During my regular walks through oak forests in northeast Oklahoma I see many varieties of birds, but the most stunning and only totally red bird in North America is more often heard than seen. This bird is the Summer Tanager, and the adult male is one of the most stunning birds to see up-close. It also has one of the most memorable songs of any songbird.

Female Summer Tanager

Female Summer Tanager high up in an Oak tree 

At a distance, which is unfortunately as close as I usually get to one, the male Summer Tanager can be mistaken for a Northern Cardinal which are abundant in my area. (Cardinals are not totally red, as they have a black face.) These birds spend most of their time high up in the top canopy of trees in rather dense forested areas. Their primary diet is wasps and bees which they catch in midair.

Summer Tanager

Juvenile Summer Tanager

While the male Summer Tanager is a beautiful red-rose color, the female is olive green on the top side and yellow underneath. They are both about 7 inches long. Besides enjoying flying insects they also eat blackberries and mulberries, and I have even seen a few in my mulberry tree

Summer Tanager and Indigo Bunting.

Two of favorite birds are the Indigo Bunting and the male Summer Tanager. I recently was lucky enough to find two of them playing together. 

Most Summer Tanagers spend their winters in Panama and add several ounces to their usual 11 ounce weight before they begin their trip there.



Betty Parsons      12:55 PM Wed 12/9/2015

I have a summer tanager in my back yard!!! All summer I called it my mystery bird. Finally identified it with your pictures......B.P. in Peru, Indiana

Michelle      1:47 PM Sat 4/18/2015

Thank you for this information. I saw this bird in my yard and had no idea what it was. We get many cardinals but I knew this was something else. Beautiful.

becci      9:49 PM Wed 7/30/2014

This pair the male and femalehave found a apparent home on my property..I noticed this little bright red bird in big oak tree three years ago, and wondered why this cardinal looked so small. I began to see him quite a lot, and soon i realized it was not a cardinal but who ever it was it was very curious about me. I live in the country and the front acres is full of oaks and pines and is a bird haven. Every time i would work in the yard or just walk around with the dogs this little red bird followed me and would get as close as its bravery would allow... it would sit in tree outside my livingroom window and watch me while i would watch t.v. he was my shadow. I finally looked him up sound out summer tanger was his name and the next day i identified his mate. They have produced several offsprings and they have all thrived. The original male still finds me outside and goings me in my outing. What a privilege.


isabel      3:39 PM Wed 1/22/2014

cute bird really wont it the red one


James Karriman      6:11 PM Wed 8/7/2013

Our Tanagers have had two offspring (male and female) they have been a joy to my wife and I. They appear (the adults) to want our attention and really seem to enjoy being watched. we are hoping they return next year...

James Karriman      4:04 PM Mon 6/10/2013

We have a male and female nesting close by. I first noticed the male a couple of weeks ago when he was tapping on our front bay windows and rear patio door like he wanted inside. He visits every day displaying the same behavior. Whats up with that?

Mike deSteiguer      7:38 PM Sat 6/8/2013

We have a Summer Tanager male that for 3 weeks now tries to get into our sunroom. He's very persistant. First time I have ever saw one of these birds and he lets me get very close to him.

QMcH      2:23 PM Mon 3/18/2013

My favorite bird!

Uplifting Visions
a guide to happiness, good health, and success
Charly Mann in a Hawaiian shirt
by Charly Mann

From the age of seven I have been enchanted with the idea of living happily ever after, and have made it a life quest to find that answer. I have spoken to hundreds of people – usually older and wiser than me, and read countless books and articles on the subject. In my website Uplifting Visions I share what I consider the best insights I have learned about achieving happiness in life.

Oklahoma Birds Listed by Color

House Finch - male (carpodacus mexicanus)
Purple Finch - male (carpodacus purpureus)
Northern Cardinal - male (cardinalis cardinalis)
Painted Bunting - male (passerina ciris)
Summer Tanager - male (piranga rubra)

Baltimore Oriole - male (icterus galbula)
Orchard Oriole - male (icterus spurius)

Yellow Warbler (dendroica petechia )
Baltimore Oriole - female (icterus galbula)
Orchard Oriole - female (icterus spurius)
Summer Tanager - female (piranga rubra)
Yellow Goldfinch - male (carduelis tristis)
Western Kingbird (tyrannus verticalis)
Eastern Meadowlark (sturnella magna)

Malard - male (anas platyrhynchos)
Dark-eyed Junco - female (junco hyemalis)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (archilochus colubris)
Painted Bunting - female (passerina ciris)
Green Heron (butorides virescens)

Barn Swallow (hirundo rustica)
Belted Kingfisher (ceryle alcyon)
Blue Jay (cyanocitta cristata)
Blue Grosbeak - male (guiraca caerulea)
Eastern Bluebird (sailia sialis)
Indigo Bunting - male (passerina cyanea)
Purple Martin - male (progne subis)

Great Blue Heron (ardea herodias)
Carolina Chickadee (poecile carolinensis)
Eastern Screech-Owl (otus asio)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (sitta canadensis)
Grey Catbird (dumetella carolinensis)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (regulus calendula)
Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher (tyrannus forficatus)
White-breasted Nuthatch (sitta carolinensis)
Tufted Titmouse (baelophus bicolor)
American Robin (turdus migratorius)
Northern Mockingbird (mimus polyglottos)
Mississippi Kite (ictinia mississippiensis)
Dickcissel (spiza americana)

American Crow (corvus brachyrhynchos)
Brown-headed Cowbird - male (molothrus ater)
European Starling (sturnus vulgaris)
Common Grackle (quiscalus quiscula)
Red-winged Blackbird - male (agelaius phoeniceus)
Spotted Towhee (pipilo maculatus)
Turkey Vulture (cathartes aura)

Black & White
American Bald Eagle (haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Black-billed Magpie (pica hudsonia)
Downey Woodpecker (picoides pubescens)
Red-Bellied Woodpecker (melanerpes carolinus)
Purple Martin - female (progne subis)
Eastern Kingbird (tyrannus tyrannus)
Dark-eyed Junco - male (junco hyemalis)
Loggerhead Shrike (lanius ludovicianus)

American Kestrel (falco sparverius)
Blue Grosbeak - female (guiraca caerulea)
Brown-headed Cowbird - female (molothrus ater)
Brown Thrasher (toxostoma rufum)
Common Nighthawk (chordeiles minor)
Carolina Wren (thryothorus ludovicianus)
Cedar Waxwing (bombycilla cedrorum)
Greater Roadrunner (geococcyx californianus)
Killdeer (charadrius vociferus)
Northern Bobwhite (colinus virginianus)
Red-tailed Hawk (buteo jamaicensis)
Cliff Swallow (petrochelidon pyrrhonota)
Horned Lark (eremophila alpestris)
House Finch - female (carpodacus mexicanus)
Northern Flicker (colaptes auratus)
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (coccyzus americanus)
Mourning Dove (zenaida macroura)
Malard - female (anas platyrhynchos)
Purple Finch - female (carpodacus purpureus)
House Sparrow (passer domesticus)
Indigo Bunting - female (passerina cyanea)
Red-winged Blackbird - female (agelaius phoeniceus)
Spotted Sandpiper (actitis macularia)
Upland Sandpiper (bartramia longicauda)
Northern Cardinal - female (cardinalis cardinalis)
Eastern Screech-Owl (otus asio)
Yellow Goldfinch - female (carduelis tristis)
Canada Goose (branta canadensis)

Wild Birds of Northeast OK

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