Male scarlet tanagers in breeding plumage are red all over, with jet black wings and tail. They’re 7 inches long and weigh less than an ounce. The stout bill is grayish olive, generally darker in all seasons than the summer tanager’s much larger, yellowish bill.
Female scarlet tanagers in breeding plumage are olive above, yellowish below; wings and tail are dusky brownish olive year-round. Immatures are similar to females. They may show slight wing bars in fall. Males in nonbreeding plumage are olive green above, yellow below, with blackish wings and tail.
The scarlet tanager occupies the eastern half of the United States, barely extending into the eastern half of Canada. Its breeding range extends west to western Minnesota and south to Oklahoma and the northern portions of the Gulf States. Scarlet tanagers winter in mature and second-growth forests from eastern Panama through northern and western South America as far south as the Amazonian lowlands.
Scarlet tanagers arrive on the breeding grounds from mid-April in the southern part of their range to late May in Canada, and they depart for the wintering grounds from August to October. Look for tanagers in large unbroken tracts of deciduous forest with high, dense canopies. The song is a hoarse, burry, hurried cherit, cheer, cheery, cherit, cheer. It has been likened to an American robin with a sore throat. Its alarm call is an emphatic chip-burr.
Hear the scarlet tanager: