Monday, August 8, 2011

Can you Identify this Virginia Bird?

A striking black-winged red bird, it is a common species of the eastern forest interior. 
Scarlet Tanager
photo © 2010 Mike & Chris | more info (via: Wylio)

Despite its brilliant coloring it is often overlooked because of its rather secretive behavior and its preference for the forest canopy.

This is a medium sized songbird. The male (as pictured above) is very distinctive. But what many do not realize is when this male molts (which he does twice per year) he has an entirely different non breeding plumage, which can quite easily be mistaken for a female.

Male Description

Breeding (Alternate) plumage: Bright red all over; variable in hue and can be somewhat orange. Black tail and wings. Whitish bill. Dark eye. Gray legs. 

Nonbreeding (Basic) plumage: Bright olive-green body. Black wings and tail. During molts in spring and fall, shows mixed red and olive green in body feathers.

Some more clues:
  • This bird winters in South America. 
  • The female sings a song similar to the male's, but softer, shorter, and less harsh.
  • It likes to dine on Insects and spiders, some earthworms, buds, and fruits. Dining habits - Captures insects by gleaning and grabbing them while hovering; will hawk flying insects. Beats prey against branch to kill it.
  • It prefers to breed in deciduous and mixed deciduous/coniferous woodlands, especially mature forests. It's clutch size is typically 1 to 6 eggs.
A useful resource for birding is Sibley Guides and Apps!  Yes, now you can use this App while in the field to help identify birds!

If you haven't figured it out by now, the answer is at the bottom of this article - typed in backwards.  Go ahead and see if you guessed correctly!

More information about birding in our area visit the Roanoke Valley Bird Club: and to learn more about Virginia's Birds from the Virginia Society of Ornithology: 

BRFAL Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalist wants you to get outside and don't forget your camera!
answer: (aecavilo agnariP) reganaT telracS

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