Friday, May 23, 2014

Scarlet Tanager

When John Holden called me on Tuesday and said that he had Scarlet Tanagers in his yard, I think he was disappointed in my relative lack of enthusiasm  I had just checked the species off on my year list. I did not know he meant he had Scarlet Tanagers at his bird feeders! Our bird trip last Wednesday was subverted as I took photos of his birds, both the male above and the female below. The birds fed on both suet (as in the third photo) and seed. The female in these photos seems to have black wings (which would make it a second-year male), but this dark color is an artifact of the photograph. The wings were actually greenish.
Scarlet Tanagers breed in the eastern United States and southeastern Canada and winter in northeastern South America. We often observed this species in the winter along the Napo River in the Ecuadorian Amazon Basin. But the biggest threat to the species is not its long-distance migration, but, rather, forest-fragmentation. As forests are felled for development and agriculture, small forest patches leave tanagers susceptable to cowbird parasitism and predators (Mobray 1999). 
As I wrote this post, Erika and I banded a another tanager, this time at our home. Try as I might, I just can’t get the camera to reproduce the intensity of this tanager’s scarlet. This last photo comes close, although I do not know from whence comes the yellow. Perhaps the yellow comes from the base of the contour feathers. At least you can easily see the “toothed” nature of the bill.

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