"The Western Tanager is one of our most common forest birds in Eastern Washington, and with a yellow body and red head (on the male) you'd think they'd be easy to see! Surprisingly, they can be hard to find, blending into the high treetops and dappled sunlight, but we do hear it's "pit-r-ick" call all day. Why the red head? Much of the red we see in other birds comes from plants they eat, but in the Tanager it comes from rhodoxanthin, a pigment they get from eating certain insects. The amount of red on any male’s head can vary quite a bit, with young males having hardly any red. The redder the head, the more virile the male appears to females, who want a strong, healthy mate!"
Photos by Mary Kieseau
Information from the Seattle Audubon Society
- Typically found in open coniferous or mixed coniferous and broad-leaved forests
- Western Tanagers are treetop-foragers and eat mostly insects in the breeding season, and they eat fruits, berries, and flower nectar in the winter months
- They are monogamous breeders, forming pairs during migration, or on the 'wintering grounds'
- Females incubate 3-5 eggs for about 13 days, and both parents tend to their young
- You can find Western Tanagers in the North Cascades most commonly from May to August, so keep your eyes peeled!