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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Summer Tanager -- Piranga rubra

RANGE: Breeds from southeastern California and southern Nevada to central Oklahoma, and from southeastern Nebraska to New Jersey south to the Gulf Coast and northern Mexico. Winters mainly from Mexico to Bolivia; rare winter visitor in southern temperate areas.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Generally inhabits dry, open woodlands of oaks, pines, and hickories in the Southeast; but only rich bottomland forests at the northern edge of its range. Inhabits low-elevation willows and cottonwoods, and streamside vegetation in canyons in the Southwest.

NEST: Builds a flimsy, flat, shallow cup nest on a horizontal limb (often oak) 10 to 35 feet above the ground.

FOOD: Eats many bees and wasps, and the larvae from wasp nests. Catches insects in the air and also eats some small fruits. (Food habits have not been thoroughly studied.)

REFERENCES: Bent 1958, Fitch and Fitch 1955, Forbush and May 1955, Johnsgard 1979, Potter 1973, Terres 1980.

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