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Number of species: 72

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Scarlet Tanager - Piranga olivacea

Scarlet Tanagers are generally fairly straightforward to age and sex based on overall plumage, especially the colour of the wings and the presence/absence of molt limits, often easily visible even on perched birds.

Quick Tips:

  • Consider the overall plumage - any individuals with red or black are males, whereas females are largely olive-green above and yellowish below, with dark (but not black) wings.
  • Examine the median and greater coverts - 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)
  • Check the tail - on HY birds the rectrices are generally narrow and relatively pointed, on AHY/ASY birds they are broad and rounded, and on 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.
  • In fall, look at the iris under good light - it is grayish to grayish brown on HY birds, and dark brown to blackish on AHY birds

Species account prepared by McGill Bird Observatory

Click on any image below to bring up the side-by-side comparison tool.
Age / Sex  Image sets 
Hatch year / Male
Body plumage olive-green; wings darker, with contrastingly black feathers among the lesser, median, and greater coverts
Thumbnail - MG2-2241-31000-Piranga_olivacea_AOU_7_52-3468.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2241-31000-Piranga_olivacea_AOU_7_52-3470.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2241-31000-Piranga_olivacea_AOU_7_52-3469.jpg
Date: Sep 9
Hatch year / Female
Body plumage olive-green; wings darker, with contrastingly fresh and dusky feathers among the lesser, median, and greater coverts
Thumbnail - MG2-2241-91902-Piranga_olivacea_AOU_7_52-3465.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2241-91902-Piranga_olivacea_AOU_7_52-3467.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2241-91902-Piranga_olivacea_AOU_7_52-3466.jpg
Date: Sep 24

Additional age / sex class descriptions

The following additional age / sex class descriptions were found for this species:
Age / Sex   Age / Sex class description
Second year / Male Body plumage mostly red, sometimes mixed with green; wings contrastingly blackish, with distinct molt limit
After second year / Male Body plumage mostly to entirely red, contrasting with black wings
After second year / Female Body plumage yellowish-green, contrasting with darker wings
Juvenile / Unknown Grayish-olive with pale wing bars and faint dusky streaking
Second year / Female Body plumage yellowish-green, contrasting with darker wings; molt limit on wings
After hatch year / Male Body plumage olive-green, contrasting with uniformly black wings
After hatch year / Female Body plumage yellowish-green, contrasting with uniformly darker wings
Number of species: 72

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