Flame-Colored Tanager

Piranga bidentata

During my South Padre Island vigil during 2021 spring migration, a Flame-Colored Tanager came to visit us, and created quite a stir. There are few records of this species in Texas, and few north of the US-Mexico border. Southern Arizona has hosted a small resident contingent of these birds since the early 1990s, but authorities list the Texas birds as “casual” or “accidental”.

When our bird first showed up on South Padre Island, the presumption was the bird was a female. But two weeks later, we heard the bird singing. This led us to speculate that we had an immature male on our hands.

In Mexico and Central America, scientists generally agree these birds are nonmigratory, and remain year-round in their range. Scientist recognise four subspecies of Flame-Colored Tanager. P. b. bidentata lives in northwestern Mexico, P. b. flammea, lives in southwest Mexico, P. b. sanguinolenta lives in northeastern Mexico south to Nicaragua, and P. b. citrea lives from Costa Rica to Panama.

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