Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Scarlet Tanager

Sunday proved to be interesting as I photographed two different birds that from a distance looked similar, but when looking at the images in my software, definitely are not. The Palm Warbler proved more difficult to identify while the bird I am posting today needed less research to uncover the identification. This is a female Scarlet Tanager. I read that the female Scarlet Tanager never turns scarlet red, as its name suggests. Only the male has the strikingly beautiful scarlet red body with jet black wings.
In the winter, this female will turn completely yellow green. She may have a hint of darker color to her scapulars. Now you may ask me, what is a scapular? I had no idea what that was either. It is the 'what I like to call' layers of feathers. The feathers lay in rows with upper, lower and sub scapulars. Under those scapulars are the tail, undertail coverts and greater coverts. Who knew? I guess you need to know when you have thousands of birds to identify in varying stages of ages and sexes. Not to mention breeding plumage. Another interesting note, Tanagers and Orioles seem to have similar markings and coloring.
This Scarlet Tanager seemed as curious about me as I was about it. Turning her head back and forth, I thought for sure she was going to fly away. But she hesitated for a bit. Here is where a long fixed lens would have come in very handy. A 300mm fixed lens would have gotten me some fantastic images. As it was my 300mm zoom kept auto focusing on branches. So I only got a few really good images that were in focus. My guess is an avid bird photographer will carry those fixed lens as it has to be to their advantage.
Female Scarlet Tanagers are entirely yellowish green, with a yellower throat and sides, and dark wings and tail. A thin bright yellow eye ring and greenish edging on their wing coverts are markings that can help identify these birds. Tanagers breed in the eastern United States, all the way to the Gulf Coast. Wintertime you will find them migrating to Amazonia and the foothills of the Andes in South America. What a trip these birds make. I truly am amazed at how far some of the smaller bird species travel in migration. As I mentioned in my last post, it has turned into the rainy season here in the Bluegrass State, with storms and heavy rain. After grabbing lunch today, I looked up to see a really dark ring of storm clouds moving in. I have to admit I checked out the whole ring just to make sure no circular motion was going on as tornadoes and wind have brought damage to homes and businesses and even several deaths south in Kentucky and in Tenessee. ENJOY!


  1. Superb images Carol. Nice to see you getting to grips with the feather topography which we definitely need to understand in order to sort out the ID of similar species.

    I often wish I had the option of a big fixed lens but the 70-300 zoom does a good job providing I remember its limitations.

  2. I can see that identification is a huge task. And your lens, the bigger the heavier, I'm sure that serious birders have what they feel is the best for them. Your photos show those feathers so clearly, love those colours. Cheers,Jean

  3. Wow - I think you and the zoom did a great job, Carol. (And I learned a new word!)