Saturday, June 15, 2013

Western Tanager

Hudon (1999) describes Western Tanagers as “a quintessential element of western forests.”  This species breeds in the Rocky Mountains from southern Alaska to the southernmost United States. They are inconspicuous on their breeding territories, but may be common during migration in city parks and other open areas. Especially in the fall and early winter, strays occasionally visit Minnesota and other eastern states.

Curiously the red color of Western Tanagers differs from other tanagers in the United States and Canada. The others deposit red 4-oxo-carotenoids in their plumage. They produce this pigment from dietary yellow pigments. Western Tanagers, however, deposit rhodoxanthin, a rare red pigment, that must be obtained from food sources, presumably insects upon which the species feeds (Hudon 1999).

I took this photo of a pair of Western Tanagers many years ago. To the best of my recollection, the location was near Taos, New Mexico.

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