Photo Credit: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Piranga olivacea
OTHER NAMES: Bee Martin
STATUS: Breeder. Common in spring, summer, and fall in Tennessee Valley and Mountain regions. Fairly common in spring and fall, and occasional in summer in Inland Coastal Plain region. In Gulf Coast region, common in spring and fall and occasional in early winter. Lowest Conservation Concern.
DESCRIPTION: The scarlet tanager is one of the most brilliantly colored North American songbirds. Scarlet tanagers are unusual among the 230 species of the neotropical tanager family because they have a seasonal change in plumage. The male in breeding plumage is a brilliant scarlet color with black wings and tail. The female is an overall olive green color. When the male is not in breeding plumage, his colors mimic the olive green of the female, yet retain the black wings.
DISTRIBUTION: Scarlet tanagers breed from extreme southeastern
HABITAT: Scarlet tanagers prefer dense canopied, mature woodlands, especially oak and pine forest.
FEEDING HABITS: Though brightly colored, scarlet tanagers can sometimes be difficult to see in the forest. Tanagers often remain motionless for long periods, seeking to feed on such items as beetles and caterpillars that are high in the forest canopy. At other times, they catch bees and wasps using the same swooping techniques as the flycatchers (Empidonax sp). They may also be seen feeding on fruits and berries, which augment their main summer diet of insects.
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: Scarlet tanagers begin their nocturnal spring migration toward North America by crossing Central America and the Gulf of Mexico, after wintering in
Collins, Henry Hill, 1981. Harper and Row’s Complete Guide to North American Wildlife, Eastern Edition, Harper and Row Publishing, New York, NY. 714 pages.
Knopf, Alfred A., 1977. Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds.
Eastern Region. Chanticleer Press, Inc.
AUTHOR: Tracy Nelson, Wildlife Biologist, Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries