The eye popping color of the male Scarlet Tanager is among the brightest, most unlikely colors in all of New England. The tanager is a husky tropical migrant that travels from the forests of western South America to spend a busy summer in the hard wood forests of New England. This long distance migrant appears in mid-May, often in pairs with males draped in robes of unnatural red. The females are dressed in a more tasteful camouflage of yellowish-green. The males come into this red color for only a few months during the spring breeding season and by late August the contrasting all red body with jet blacks wings will dissipate into a greenish color similar to the female, though the males keep their black wings year round.
Finding this insect catching,
treetop bird can be a challenge even with their remarkable color. Knowing the
song of the tanager and better still the call note is a great tool in locating
these birds and catching a glimpse. The male’s song has been described as “a
robin with a sore throat” a raspy, burry, collection of warbles and phrases.
While this may confuse the new bird watcher learning to recognize the tanager’s
call note is far easier and makes for a great identification clue. Listen for a slow, loud,
two-note, “chick – burrrr” call repeated from high in an oak tree. This call of two distinct sounds can be heard from a distance and while it
doesn’t help to clear away the large leaves on the tree it will at least let it
be known that a tanager is around.