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Hepatic Tanager - BirdForum Opus

Male of Northern group
Photo © by peterday
Madera Canyon, Arizona, USA, July 2011
Piranga flava

Includes: Tooth-billed Tanager; Red Tanager


Female of Northern group
Photo © by Lisa W
Huachuca Canyon, Arizona, USA, May 2008

18 cm (7 in)

  • Male: dark red to orange-red, grey wash on back and flanks. Grey-red cheek patch. Heavy, slightly hooked, and dark bill.
  • Female: olive-green upperparts and yellow-orange underparts with grey wash on flanks.
  • Juvenile: paler underparts, brown streaks, and buff-gray wing-bars.


Males of the Highland Hepatic Tanager group have a two-toned bill, dark upper and yellow lower mandible; in Lowland Hepatic Tanager, the lower mandible is grey vs black for upper. The three forms also differ in the tone of the red in males, as seen in the images.


North America, Central America, and South America.
In the U.S.A, summers in Arizona and New Mexico. These and populations in northern Mexico mostly migrate south to an area from southern Mexico to Guatemala. Populations breeding in Guatemala and Belize and south through Central and South America are resident. In western and northern South America, they primarily are found in highlands of Trinidad, Venezuela, The Guianas, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. A separate form is found mainly in lowlands of They Guianas, Brazil, eastern Bolivia, Paraguay, north eastern Argentina and Uruguay.


Photo © by Stanley Jones
Córdoba Province, Argentina, October, 2019


Male of Highland group showing the typical two-toned bill
Photo © by Aralcal
Aralcal, Colombia, January 2009

Several subspecies exist[1]. These fall into three main groups that sometimes are considered separate species: The Northern Hepatic Tanager (P. hepatica - first five subspecies in the list), the Highland Hepatic Tanager (P. lutea - subspecies 6-11 in the list) and the Lowland Hepatic Tanager (P. flava - last four subspecies):
Northern Group

  • P.f. hepatica: South-western US and western Mexico (south to Guerrero and Oaxaca)
  • P.f. dextra: South-western US (east of Rockies) and eastern Mexico; winters to western Guatemala
  • P.f. figlina: Lowland pine savanna of eastern Guatemala and Belize
  • P.f. savannarum: Lowland pine savanna of eastern Honduras and north-eastern Nicaragua
  • P.f. albifacies: Montane oak-pine belt of western Guatemala to northern Nicaragua

Highland Group

  • P.f. testacea: Subtropical Costa Rica and Panama (east to Cape Gararchiné)
  • P.f. desidiosa: Upper tropical and subtropical south-western Colombia
  • P.f. lutea: Extreme south-western Colombia to western Ecuador, Peru and north-western Bolivia
  • P.f. haemalea: Mountains of southern Venezuela, western Guyana and extreme northern Brazil
  • P.f. faceta: Mountains of northern Colombia and northern Venezuela; winters to Trinidad
  • P.f. toddi: Western slope of Eastern Andes of Colombia (Magdalena)

Lowland Group

  • P.f. macconnelli: Southern Guyana and adjacent extreme northern Brazil
  • P.f. saira: Eastern Brazil (Amazon to Mato Grosso and Rio Grande do Sul)
  • P.f. rosacea: Eastern Bolivia (Santa Cruz to Chiquitos)
  • P.f. flava: Southern Bolivia (Cochabamba) to Uruguay and northern Argentina


Open pine and pine-oak forests, often near water.



Their main diet consists of insects with the addition of fruits such as figs, ripe guavas, grapes and cherries.


Click on photo for larger image


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Ber van Perlo. 2009. A field guide to the Birds of Brazil. Oxford University Press, New York, NY, USA. ISBN 978-0-19-530155-7
  3. Kenefick, Restall, Hayes, 2007. Field guide to the birds of Trinidad and Tobago. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-13557-2
  4. Howell & Webb, 1995. A guide to the birds of Mexico and northern Central America. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198540124

External Links

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