Description 6 - 7 1/2" Adult male has brilliant red
head, bright yellow body, with black back, wings, and tail.
2 wing bars; smaller uppermost bar yellow, lower one
white. First-year males have little or no red on their
Female is yellow-green above, yellow below; wing bars
similar to male's.
Habitat Open coniferous or mixed coniferous and
broadleaved forests, although they are very wide-ranging
in different habitats. They are least at home in dense,
coastal rain forests.
Diet Although Western Tanagers are adapted for
eating fruit, they eat mostly insects during the breeding
season. During winter, they eat many fruits and berries.
They may also eat flower nectar.
Nesting Western Tanagers are monogamous
breeders. Pairs may form on the wintering grounds or
during migration. They often nest in conifers, but will
sometimes nest in aspen, oak, or other broadleaved
The female builds the nest, which is a frail, shallow,
open cup, usually placed in a horizontal fork, well out
from the trunk. The nest is typically made of twigs and
grass, lined with hair and rootlets, and at a low elevation.
The female incubates 3 to 5 bluish-green, speckled
eggs for about 13 days, and broods the young for the
first few days after hatching. Both parents feed and tend
the young, which leave the nest after about 11 days, but
stay close to the parents for about two more weeks.
Range Breeds from southern Alaska and Mackenzie
They migrate to Mexico and Central America at night and
travel at high altitudes. They are usually alone or in pairs,
but occasionally migrate in flocks. They tend to be
relatively late-spring and early-fall migrants.
Voice Song is robin-like in its short flute-y phrases,
rendered with a pause in between. The quality is much
hoarser, however. Call is a dry pit-r-ick.
Discussion In late spring and early summer the
Western Tanager, first recorded on the Lewis and Clark
expedition (1803-1806), feeds on insects, often like a
flycatcher, from the high canopy. Later it feeds on
berries and other small fruits.
Such the pretty girl amongst the green backdrop of the trees.
But I have yet to see a male around the birding area.
Since my birding area doesn't cater to insect-eating birds, I'm glad she
makes a rare visit. Her first stop usually is the suet cake for a peck or
two and then over to the water fountain for a drink or a quick bath.