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Number of species: 79

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Scarlet Tanager - Piranga olivacea

Scarlet Tanager has a partial preformative molt and incomplete (first cycle) or partial (later cycles) prealternate molts, which generally permit for reliable ageing. Sex can usually be readily determined by plumage throughout the year.

Quick tips

  • Examine the median and greater coverts - FCF/FCA (HY/SY) birds have distinct molt limits within or between these feather tracts (dark olive vs. grayish on females; black vs. grayish-green on males), whereas they are uniform on DCB/DCA (AHY/ASY) individuals.
  • Check the tail - on FCF (HY) birds the rectrices are generally narrow and relatively pointed, on DCB/DCA (AHY/ASY) birds they are broad and rounded, and on FCA (SY) birds, there is often a mix of narrow (juvenile) and broad (alternate) feathers, although in some cases the entire tail is replaced during the prealternate molt.
  • Consider the overall plumage - any individuals with red or black are males.
  • In fall, look at the iris under good light - it is grayish to grayish brown on FCF (HY) birds, and dark brown to blackish on DCB (AHY) birds.

Species account prepared by McGill Bird Observatory (2016). Last updated by Marcel Gahbauer (Mar 2022)

The molt categories displayed below may be filtered by month.

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Click on any image below to bring up the side-by-side comparison tool.

Individuals not in molt

FCJ - (HY: June - August)
Grayish-green with some streaking on the breast and pale wing bars
No images available yet
FCF - (HY: July - December; SY January - April)
Distinct molt limit between the primary coverts and greater coverts or among the greater coverts, with replaced feathers black (M) or olive-green (F) contrasting with retained brownish feathers; rectrices narrow and pointed; iris with grayish tones
M
Thumbnail - CG3-NA_195-Piranga_olivacea-591.jpg

Thumbnail - MH3-2241-91905-Piranga_olivacea-125.jpg

Thumbnail - MR3-266164869-Piranga_olivacea_AOU_7_52-1404.jpg

Thumbnail - MH3-2241-91905-Piranga_olivacea-126.jpg Thumbnail - MH3-2241-91905-Piranga_olivacea-127.jpg

Thumbnail - MR3-266164869-Piranga_olivacea_AOU_7_52-1405.jpg Thumbnail - MR3-266164869-Piranga_olivacea_AOU_7_52-1406.jpg
F
Thumbnail - MH3-2241-91902-Piranga_olivacea-121.jpg Thumbnail - MH3-2241-91902-Piranga_olivacea-122.jpg Thumbnail - MH3-2241-91902-Piranga_olivacea-123.jpg
FCA - (SY: March - September)
Distinct molt limit between the primary coverts and greater coverts or among the greater coverts, with replaced feathers black (M) or olive-green (F) contrasting with retained brownish feathers
M
Thumbnail - CG3-NA_194-Piranga_olivacea-589.jpg Thumbnail - CG3-NA_194-Piranga_olivacea-590.jpg
F
Thumbnail - JMW-1461-09322-Piranga_olivacea-236.jpg
DCB - (AHY: July - December; ASY January - April)
Rectrices all fairly broad and rounded; greater coverts and primary coverts uniformly black (M) or olive-green (F); iris dark brown to blackish
No images available yet
DCA - (ASY: March - September)
Rectrices all fairly broad and rounded; greater coverts and primary coverts uniformly black (M) or olive-green (F); iris dark brown to blackish
M
Thumbnail - JMW-1461-08959-Piranga_olivacea-235.jpg

Individuals in active molt

FPJ - (HY: June - July)
Grayish-green with some streaking on the breast and pale wing bars; some natal down remaining and/or juvenile flight feathers still growing in
No images available yet
FPF - (HY: July - September)
Similar to FCF; median and some to all greater coverts and in rare cases also tertials and central rectrices being replaced
No images available yet
FPA - (SY: January - May)
Body plumage mottled red and yellowish (M) or shades of yellowish (F), with many to all greater coverts, some to all tertials, and some to all rectrices being replaced, contrasting with duller and paler primary coverts
No images available yet
SPB - (SY: July - September)
Flight feathers being replaced, with retained juvenile primaries, secondaries, and/or primary coverts distinctly brown and quite worn
M
Thumbnail - LD-228175035-Piranga_olivacea_AOU_7_52-1217.jpg Thumbnail - LD-228175035-Piranga_olivacea_AOU_7_52-1219.jpg

Thumbnail - IS2-282126066-Piranga_olivacea_AOU_7_52-4523.jpg

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Thumbnail - IS2-282126066-Piranga_olivacea_AOU_7_52-4524.jpg

Thumbnail - LD-228175035-Piranga_olivacea_AOU_7_52-1218.jpg
DPB - (AHY: July - September)
Flight feathers being replaced, with retained primaries, secondaries, and/or primary coverts either distinctly adult (blackish and with only moderate wear) or intermediate
No images available yet
DPA - (ASY: January - May)
Body plumage mottled red and yellowish (M) or shades of yellowish (F), with many to all greater coverts, some to all tertials, and some to all rectrices being replaced, contrasting only slightly with retained feathers
No images available yet

Applicable unknown plumage/age classes

Molt classes Age Months Key traits
M-FPF / UPU (FPF, SPB, DPB) U July - September Undergoing preformative or prebasic molt, but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FCF / UCU (FCF, SCB, DCB) U/AHY July - April In formative or basic plumage (molt completed), but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FPA / UPA (FPA, DPA) AHY January - May Undergoing prealternate molt, but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FCA / UCA (FCA, DCA) AHY March - September In alternate plumage (molt completed), but cycle is not reliably distinguishable

Number of species: 79

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