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Western Tanager

The western tanager shows up on the South Vancouver Island in May and can be seen in forest settings around the island as far up as the Campbell River area. The Western Tanager adult has a brilliant red head, bright yellow body with black back, wings, and tail, two wing bars, smaller uppermost bar yellow, lower white, female yellow-green above, yellow below with wing bars similar to the male.

Western Tanagers can be found in open coniferous or mixed coniferous and deciduous forests. They are common in forest openings, and they seem most at home in the dry douglas fir forests of the BC coast, but they are much more widely distributed than that. They nest in open coniferous forests of douglas fir, spruce, and pine, mixed woodlands with aspen trees, high up sometimes nesting as high as 2,000 meters. They do not like wet and dark forest settings.

Western Tanager, Vancouver Island, BC
Western Tanager, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Robert Logan

They can be found in lowland areas during migration. The female lays up to 5 speckled bluish-green eggs in a frail, saucer nest of woven rootlets, weeds, and bark strips, saddled in a fork of spruce, fir, or pine tree usually at low elevation in the tree. The young birds look like the female, dull in color and rather drab. In the fall, the birds head south to winter in Central America.

Although Western Tanagers are fruit-eating birds, they eat mostly insects during the breeding season. During winter, they eat many fruits and berries. They may also eat flower nectar. Treetop-foragers, They search for food on foliage and branches and will capture insects on the fly.  These birds are awesome to observe in the wild, a true gem of the forest.

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