Monday, May 24, 2010

Summer Tanager

I am seeing and hearing greater numbers of Summer Tanagers this year starting in April. They have shown up around my house and everywhere imaginable. This one I photographed in the Pecan Grove near the Soccer Complex in Waco, Texas.

The Summer Tanager is the only all red bird in North America. Many think they are seeing a cardinal at first glimpse. Look closely and one can see a rather stout bill that is longer than that of the cardinal. Also, the male cardinal has its beak lined with black.

North American Tanagers eat a wide variety of insects. They prefer wasps and bees but will take moths and caterpillars. When a bee or wasp is caught, the tanager will bring it back to a perch to beat off the stinger before eating them. They may eat some fruits later in the summer.

This group of birds exhibits a dramatic degree of sexual dimorphism. The female Summer Tanager is not at all red. She is drab yellow green. Immature males may look mottled with red and yellow patches as they molt into the adult red during their first spring, a condition called in eclipse.

The males can be readily seen, in most cases, but listen also for its call, pit-i-tuck, pit-i-tuck.

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