Monday, June 6, 2022

Summer Tanager

In  my post yesterday I described seeing Lucy's warbler at Big Morongo Preserve, the no. 500 bird on my bird list. I saw my 499th bird earlier that same morning, also at Big Morongo, the summer tanager. 

Until a few weeks ago I thought the only red bird that could be seen at Big Morongo was the vermilion flycatcher. Then, looking at photos on eBird at Big Morongo, I saw the beautiful summer tanager, another red bird, and decided I really needed to see one. 

I walked the Swamp Trail first thing and as I was just about ready to leave the mesquite thicket and head into the open back to the entrance to the Preserve I noticed a garish red patch among a green canvas of leaves. At first I thought it must be a piece of balloon or parachute caught in the tree, it was a bright red color that just did not belong there. But I soon realized it was a summer tanager and I spent a frustrating several minutes trying unsuccessfully to get my camera to focus on it. I got many very blurry photos and the two below are the best of the bad. 

I mentioned in my last post that I met a volunteer who keeps up the bird feeders at Big Morongo's Nature Center (until that day, when he told me about them, I hadn't even noticed the feeders there). He mentioned that he puts grape jelly in the feeders to attract summer tanagers and orioles. I spent some time near the Nature Center, looking, and was unsuccessful in seeing another summer tanager. 

Later that morning, as I was getting ready to leave, I sat down for a second time at the feeders near the host's mobile home on the road into the Preserve. The volunteer I'd met earlier pulled up in his truck and stopped to fill the feeders, including some grape jelly in one. He mentioned that these bird feeders are being phased out. The caretaker, in his 90s, has terminal cancer and is on hospice and not coming back. The bird feeders at the Nature Center will be kept up. He then sat down with me for a few minutes to watch. 

Sure enough he said he could see a summer tanager. It eventually landed on a line stringing up a number of feeders. Again, I couldn't get my camera to focus on it. Then the summer tanager went for the grape jelly that had been set out and shared it, reluctantly, with a female hooded oriole. 

Another summer tanager, a young one that was still developing the red in its feathers, stopped for a brief time. Again, I couldn't get my camera to focus. But I was thrilled to see three summer tanagers that morning and it is probably the most beautiful bird out there. 
Summer tanager range (from Wikipedia): orange is summer breeding; yellow is migration; and blue is winter non-breeding. 
The summer tanager was originally classified as a tanager, but has now been put in the same family as a cardinal because its plumage and vocalizations are so similar to other members of the cardinal family. There are two subspecies: the western race breeds in the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico and winters in southern Mexico; the eastern race breeds in the southeastern U.S. and winters in northern South America.
Adult males are rose red with a short, horn colored blunt tipped bill. Females are yellow on top, with yellow-brown wings and tail and orangish underparts. 

1 comment:

  1. Incredibly brilliant color--hard to believe your camera just didn't ignore everything else and zoom right in on that gorgeous bird!