Flame-colored Tanager

Flame-colored Tanager (Piranga bidentata): Tangara dorsirrayada; Blutkardinal; Piranga à dos rayé

Like other members of the genus piranga, the Flame-colored Tanager was originally considered a ‘true tanager’ and was thus placed in the Thraupidae family. Along with 5 other pirangas, it was more recently transferred to the Cardinalidae family, which mostly includes grosbeaks and buntings. You should be able to find pairs of this handsome bird with some regularity on the nearby Turrialba Volcano slope in forest edge locations, though I myself have never recorded it in less forested areas a little lower down either in San Antonio or nearby Santa Cruz. Despite its name in German, which translates literally to ‘blood cardinal’, the male’s red plumage is often tinged with orange. John’s recent visit to Casa Tangara Dowii in the highlands south of Cartago allowed him to obtain the photos below.

Male Flame-colored Tanager at Casa Tangara Dowii; photo by John Beer

The female of the species retains the distinctive wing bars but is mostly yellowish. The Spanish and French names refer to the streaked back of both male and female. This can be a key field mark, since it separates the female from the otherwise very similar female Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana).

Female Flame-colored Tanager showing streaked back; photo by John Beer

The distinction is not so important in our Turrialba area, where as far as I can tell the migrant Western Tanager has never been recorded. The Flame-colored Tanager‘s range extends through mountainous terrain from Mexico south through Central America to western Panama.

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