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Western Tanager spends its summer in the mountain treetops out west

Western tanager, male
Western Tanager, male

Any bird lover who is headed up into the mountains out west this summer for camping, hiking or a cabin getaway should keep their eyes peeled for a special songbird that's hard to find: the Western Tanager.

A bird that looks like it flew out of a painting

The western mountain pines are home to these birds. Males sport bright yellow bodies and red-orange faces finished off with black wings as a nice accent to their boldly designed look. The gray back and wings of females and juveniles gives them an overall greenish cast that helps them blend in with their pine top surroundings.

Treetop lifestyle of the Western Tanager

In spite of their bright feathers, the Western Tanager can be difficult to spot. They live in the upper canopies of the mountain pines, spending the short summers nesting and eating insects. They also eat mulberries, elderberries and cherries.

Western tanager, female
Western Tanager, female

In the spring, the females build nests at least 15 feet off the ground or higher in the fork of a tree. She does much of the incubating while the male sings almost constantly to defend the territory, occasionally feeding her.

To see a Western Tanager

If you hope to catch a glimpse of these beautiful songbirds, there are a few things you can try besides learning their robin-like sounds and craning your neck. If your place is adjacent to the pine forest, setting out water may attract the Western Tanager visitor. Otherwise, western residents could very well discover such a bird landing in their yards as the Western Tanager migrates to Mexico for the winter. Even though seeds are not their favorite, late starters for the trip south have on occasion been seen snapping up seeds at backyard feeders.

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