Common Name

Scientific Name


Photo by Lynn Chamberlain
Photo Copyright Lynn Chamberlain

The western tanager, Piranga ludoviciana, breeds in coniferous forests of western North America, and winters in southern Baja California, central and southern Mexico, and Central America. The breeding range of this tanager extends further north (southeastern Alaska) than that of any other tanager. The western tanager favors shaded habitat, which renders it difficult to spot in forests; during migration, however, large groups of western tanagers are often spotted in parks and other open areas. It resides in the mountains of Utah during the summer, where it nests at mid-elevations in coniferous and aspen forests. Migrants are often spotted along stream sides in Utah's valleys during the fall.

The western tanager eats mainly insects during its breeding season. During non-breeding seasons, the western tanager eats primarily fruits and berries. Pairs probably form on the wintering grounds or during migration, as pairs arrive at the breeding grounds together. The female builds a cup nest using twigs, grasses, rootlets, and animal hair. The female incubates four eggs for thirteen days. After the young hatch, the female continues to spend much of the day sitting with the hatchlings until they are nearly ready to the leave the nest. Hatchlings leave the nest after about two weeks, but they stay with their parents for another two weeks.


  • Behle, W. H., Sorensen, E. D. and C. M. White. 1985. Utah birds: a revised checklist. Utah Museum of Natural History, Occasional Publication No. 4. Salt Lake City, UT.

  • Hayward, C. L., Cottam, C., Woodbury, A. M., and H. H. Frost. 1976. Birds of Utah. In Great Basin Naturalist Memoirs, No. 1 (Wood, S. L. and K. T. Harper, eds.). Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.

  • Hudon, J. 1999. Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana). Birds of North America 432.