My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Scarlet Tanager, Piranga olivacea

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Scarlet Tanager, Piranga olivacea

The Scarlet Tanager is a medium-sized American songbird. Formerly placed in the tanager family, it and other members of its genus are now classified in the cardinal family. The species’ plumage and vocalizations are similar to other members of the cardinal family.

Adults have pale stout smooth bills. Adult males are bright red with black wings and tail. Females are yellowish on the underparts and olive on top, with olive-brown wings and tail. The adult male’s winter plumage is similar to the female’s, but the wings and tail remain darker. Young males briefly show a more complex variegated plumage intermediate between adult males and females.

Their breeding habitat is large forested areas, especially with oaks, across eastern North America. Scarlet Tanagers migrate to northwestern South America, passing through Central America around April, and again around October.

They begin arriving on the breeding grounds in numbers by about May and already start to move south again in mid-summer, by early October they are all on their way south.

Scarlet Tanagers are often out of sight, foraging high in trees, sometimes flying out to catch insects in flight. They eat mainly insects and fruit.

These birds do best in the forest interior, where they are less exposed to predators and brood parasitism by the Brown-headed Cowbird. Their nests are typically built on horizontal tree branches.

On to my photos:

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

This is number 106 in my photo life list, only 244 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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16 responses

  1. Your pictures got me thinking that we don’t have any bright red birds out here… the closest I can think of is the pilated woodpecker and they just have a bit of red.

    June 20, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    • You know, I can’t think of any bright red western birds either, but, I think that some of the birds there have many more colors, and could be considered more colorful.

      June 21, 2013 at 2:14 am

      • Our Stellar Jays are about the most colorful I can think of. Then there’s the Grosbeaks, Towhees and Flickers… but still nothing like your Scarlet Tanager. On the other hand we have a year round hummingbird and a migrant flock that comes through here in the spring like gangbusters.

        June 21, 2013 at 2:48 am

      • Part of how we think of birds has to do with how common they are, and how often we see them. Everything in other parts of the country or the world seem exotic since we don’t see them on a regular basis.

        June 21, 2013 at 12:55 pm

  2. I wish I could see things like this in the woods. it’s a beautiful bird.

    June 20, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    • Well, I’ll do my best to get photos almost as good as seeing them in person.

      June 21, 2013 at 2:12 am

  3. No arguing about the colour description today. It is scarlet.

    June 20, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    • Wow, I go one right for a change. 😉

      June 21, 2013 at 2:11 am

  4. plantsamazeme

    Scarlet Tanager one of my favorites. What nice shots showing the color of this bird. Thanks, Jerry.

    June 21, 2013 at 7:41 am

    • Thanks Chris!

      June 21, 2013 at 12:55 pm

  5. What fantastic captures of this tanager. I am so envious of you being able to enjoy such a beauty.

    June 23, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    • Well then, I won’t tell you that today while I was shooting an eaglet in the nest that a tanager landed so close to me that I didn’t have to crop for a close-up.

      June 23, 2013 at 10:25 pm

  6. Beautiful captures of a beautiful bird, Jerry! What a treat!

    June 24, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    • Thanks! As so often happens, when you finally manage a few good photos of a species, they suddenly show up everywhere. I was watching an eagle nest Sunday evening, and a tanager landed not more than 20 feet from me and perched there for some time.

      June 25, 2013 at 2:32 am

  7. Congrats on getting so many wonderful shots of the tanager! They can be pretty tricky, since they love to hang around up high in the treetops! These pics are great! (Do you ever get tired of hearing that? 🙂 )

    June 24, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    • Thanks, and no, I don’t. If I did, I probably wouldn’t be blogging. 😉

      June 25, 2013 at 2:32 am