Birding Notes

Reflections on birds and other wildlife on the edge of a southern woodland

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Scarlet Tanagers Continue to Sing

Although it seems to me that we have fewer neotropical migrants in our woods this spring than we’ve had in the past, it seems to be a good year for Scarlet Tanagers here. I’ve caught only one brief glimpse of the male’s brilliant red and black plumage, and have not seen a female at all, but their songs and calls are so distinctive and familiar that they’ve been one of the most characteristic parts of the scene around our house through all of May and into early June.

At least one, and maybe a pair, continues to sing and call in the woods near the creek, and also – this year for the first time – a Scarlet Tanager has been singing every day from a different direction, across the street from our house, along the edge of the woods that slope down to a different creek there. It’s one of the earliest singers every morning, and it seems to make its way along a path through these trees repeatedly throughout the morning. It sings most often from the highest parts of the trees – sweet gums and water oaks, mostly – but stays hidden in the dense green leaves.

In the evenings, it sings from a large, magnificent red oak tree down the street and toward the west, on the edge of the woods there. I once saw it singing there in the early morning, but in the evenings, it sings late, and the tree is silhouetted against the orange light of the horizon after the sun has gone down.

Except for that one time, I haven’t been able to see the bird singing, but I also hear the crisp CHIK-brrr calls. I don’t know for sure if I’m hearing one bird or two. It may be just a male, or a pair singing and calling back and forth to each other. While the Scarlet Tanager’s song is not particularly pretty, its call is alluring and one of my favorite sounds in the summer woods.


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