Bird of the Week

Posted Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the western tanager.

The western tanager brings with it a suggestion of late spring/early summer. These colorful birds fly into and out of our lives rather quickly, but sightings of these species are unforgettable and indicative of seasonality. Specifically, the male in breeding plumage dons a bright red head, contrasting sharply with the otherwise black wings and bright yellow of the bird’s nape (back of the neck), shoulders, breast and rump. Two distinct wing bars (stripes across the top of the wing) are noticeable in flight, interrupting the otherwise black feathers.

The female presents a little less conspicuous, with an almost olive green/yellow casting, much in the same way that a female goldfinch may, but with a much pointier bill and decidedly bigger body.

These mid-sized birds are known for their distinct morning songs; almost in the vein of an undulating American robin, but coarser in character, they can light up a mature ponderosa pine or mixed conifer stand in the early hours of the day during this time of year. Their call has been likened to an ascending pri-di-dit or pit-er-ick.

They tend to feed on insects and will even visit the tops of fruit-bearing trees in your yard, gleaning pollinating bees and wasps from nearby flowers. Keep an eye out for this flashy bird as they flit high up in treetops over the next few weeks.

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