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Hepatic Tanager is the most widely distributed Piranga tanager, ranging from the southwest United States south to northern Argentina. Its English name is based on the liver-red color of the adult male from the northern part of the species' range; however, its scientific name, flava, meaning "yellow," derives from the original description, which is based on a female from Paraguay. These names reflect both a characteristic of the genus Piranga, marked sexual dichromatism, and the broad range of coloration, habitat, and behavior encompassed within the Hepatic Tanager as currently recognized.In the United States through Central America, Hepatic Tanager breeds mostly in open pine (Pinus) or pine-oak (Quercus) forests and similar habitats at moderately high altitudes, moving to lower elevation in winter. Northern populations are migratory, but a few individuals often remain in northern breeding areas during winter. The species migrates in small flocks and may follow river valleys; banding data that might indicate the magnitude of migratory movements and migration routes are nonexistent.

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