Here Comes The Sun

Among our migratory birds, one of the more color- and cheerful representatives is the Western Tanager. As the name implies, it does not typically frequent the eastern part of the Americas, but from its winter quarters in Central America or Mexico journeys to US states and Canadian provinces west of the Great Plains, where it raises its brood in coniferous and mixed forests at elevations of up to 10,000 feet.

Even though tanagers are chiefly insectivorous, their diet also includes berries. This partial sweet tooth is responsible for their appearance at feeders supplied with oranges and grape jelly. For the first time this year, these foods have been part of our offerings and have been well received—by more than the species in question. While tanagers and similarly brilliant birds were replenishing their fat stores for a few weeks following their northbound travels, flickers and flashes of color fluttered regularly through our yard.

As is frequently the case in the avian universe, males are more flamboyant. The understated females are outfeathered by their mates with their bright yellow bodies and orange to red heads. Interestingly, in contrast to other species whose orangeness results from dietary carotenoids, Western Tanagers absorb the rarer pigment rhodoxanthin from certain insects. Often described as flame-colored, for me they evoke the shades of the sky during sunrise—as if from the black of night emerge the lemon, peach, and apricot hues of a new dawn.

To enlarge a photo, click on it. To read its caption, hover the cursor over it.

To learn more about Western Tanagers, and to hear their vocalizations, please follow the link to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

57 thoughts on “Here Comes The Sun

  1. Wunderschön sind diese Vögel.
    Ich sehe immer wieder, dass ihr Vögel mit Orangen verwöhnt.
    Ob unsere Vögel das nicht vertragen?
    Jedenfalls wird hier davon abgeraten.
    Schade, ich hätte es gerne mal probiert. 🍊
    Liebe Grüße

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your interest, Nirmala. I think the current understanding is that males are more colorful in order to attract mates, and females are less so because they tend to be the ones that incubate the eggs, so it’s safer to be less conspicuous and better camouflaged.


  2. Yes, I was struck by that lovely phrase as well. We used to have scarlet tanagers here but it has been many years since I’ve seen one. It is hard to believe but there are very few insects left in my area. The western tanager is a sight to behold.

    Liked by 2 people

      • I hope so too. I’m reading, “Nature’s Best Hope”. The author points out how much land we homeowners collectively hold, and what a difference it would make if every yard had at least a corner devoted to native vegetation. This would give habitat for insects and, in turn, our beautiful birds. So I was outside enjoying a fresh dragonfly yesterday in my wild garden, and looked over to see a pimply faced idiot spraying the neighbor’s yard with insecticide “To kill those pesky ants, bees and mosquitoes…Oh but it is completely safe!” I mean~!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Don’t get me started, Melissa. I have said it before, and will say it again: We are a sorry excuse for a species. And we are the only species I know of that destroys its own habitat.

        But let us continue to grow native plants and refrain from using deadly and disease-causing chemicals in our tiny little yards.

        I will check out the title you mentioned, thank you for the reference.


  3. Love your description of the male’s colors, Tanja. Another comparison might be a Tequila Sunrise. 🙂 We have our Scarlet Tanager here that has only two colors but is quite brilliant too.

    Have a wonderful 4th weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wie schön, ich habe mal eine Zeit lang in einer lateinamerikanischen Großstadt gelebt, in der es kaum Vögel gab. Zurück in Europa war der Gesang der Vögel mit das schönste für mich!


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