The Outdoor Journal by Kyle Carroll
For the last month, new birds have been arriving every few days. A friend texted me and said the Baltimore Orioles had made it to Bethany. Humming birds have been spotted in a few places around the area, and today I heard a different song coming from up in the White Oak tree in our front yard. I was close to my truck so I grabbed my binoculars (Nikon Monarchs) and looked back to see if I could spot the singer. About 2/3rd of the way up I spotted what at first glance looked like a Cardinal. It didn't sing like a Cardinal. I quickly got the glasses focused on the red songbird and could see then that it was a Summer Tanager.
Summer Tanagers breed in gaps and edges of open deciduous forests. They spend the winter in many types of open and second growth habitats in southern Mexico, Central America, and northern South America.
Summer Tanagers specialize on bees and wasps on both their breeding and wintering ranges. They also eat other aerial and terrestrial invertebrates such as spiders, cicadas, beetles, ants, termites, grasshoppers, flies, moths, and bugs, as well as fruits such as mulberries, blackberries, pokeweed, Cecropia, citrus, and bananas. They capture flying insects during short sallies, carrying their prey back and beating it repeatedly against the perch. They glean terrestrial insects from the leaves and bark of trees and shrubs. To harvest fruit, they may hover and pluck individual fruits, or glean from a perched position.
Summer Tanagers are fairly common. Their numbers have not suffered like grass land bird populations. Overall their populations were stable between 1966 and 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates their global breeding population at 12 million, with 83% spending part of the year in the U.S., and 17% in Mexico.
So take a second look when you see the “red” bird in your woods. It might be a summer visitor from Mexico.