May 8, 2017


Scarlet Tanagers Show Up  In Spring, Then Vanish (Carolyn LoriĆ©, May 07, 2017, Valley News)

This time of year, the male scarlet tanager has a ruby-red body, flanked by jet-black wings and an equally black tail. He's like a precious stone with wings. The female is olive yellow, with brighter yellow on her throat and face. [...]

These neo-tropical birds winter in South America and migrate across the Gulf of Mexico every spring to breed in the eastern half of the United States and parts of Canada. Males arrive first, and announce their presence with raspy song, similar to the courtship song of American robins. But unlike robins, they're unlikely to linger in your yard.

Once breeding season is in full swing, scarlet tanagers tend to spend most of their time high in the treetops. The females choose nesting sites that can be more than 50 feet from the ground. When searching for insects to eat, the birds tend to stick to tree branches and trunks at or near the top of the canopy.

Not only do scarlet tanagers tend to stay high up in the trees, they prefer to raise their young in large tracts of uninterrupted forest. A nest built on the forest edge is more likely to be parasitized by brown-headed cowbirds and is also more vulnerable to predators.

Large tracts of forest, however, aren't the birds' only requirement. They also prefer a diversity of trees. This is one of the reasons -- in addition to the male's appealing looks -- that a scarlet tanager appears on the syrup label for Audubon Vermont's Bird-Friendly Maple Project. Sugarbushes that contain only maple trees aren't as appealing to many songbird species, including scarlet tanagers, as more diverse woodlands. According to Steve Hagenbuch, a conservation biologist at Audubon Vermont, research suggests that insect foraging is not as good in maple monocultures. The presence of other tree species, especially red oak and hemlock, can increase feeding opportunities.

Posted by at May 8, 2017 7:20 AM