Jul 18 2008

Scarlet baby

Published by at 7:07 am under Songbirds

Scarlet Tanager nestling (photo by Chuck Tague)There are so many baby birds to write about that I’m having a hard time keeping up.   Chuck Tague sent me this photo a month ago.  That’s how far behind I am.

You’re probably wondering why I called this little brown bird a scarlet baby.  It’s because he’s a prematurely fledged scarlet tanager.   You can see what he’ll look like as an adult if you click on his picture.  Quite a difference.

Male scarlet tanagers change color many times as they mature.  If this baby is male, it will take him two years to become solid red and black like his father.  You can see all the scarlet tanager plumage variations – both male and female – by clicking here.  It’s bewildering how many colors the same bird can be.

Scarlet tanagers molt twice a year.   The male is red and black in breeding season, green and black in the non-breeding season which tanagers spend in northwestern South America (Columbia, Ecuador, Peru).  The female is always yellowish green.

Those who see green-colored scarlet tanagers from November to March must wonder why we call them scarlet.   I’m sure they have a different name for them. 

Maybe one of you can tell me what it is.

p.s.  See the comments below for the answer!

(photo by Chuck Tague)

5 responses so far

5 Responses to “Scarlet baby”

  1. Nancy Ton 18 Jul 2008 at 8:55 am

    I was turned onto your blog by Todd from the Aviary and I have to say I really enjoy learning so much from you! I have started to pay much more attention to the birds I see, and I can recognize more of them now. We have a much used nest in a protected area of the house eves and I was treated to the entire baby-rearing process by a moma robin. The best part had to be the flying lessons (I remember you talking about the peregrines fledging). I was working in my garden when it seemed I was getting dive-bombed by these little bird-lets! They were ALL over the place (just like watching 16 year-olds learning to drive) and mom was desperately trying to keep track of all 4 of them with this nifty call-and-response method. She had two chirping sounds (very different from each other) and then she would wait for the little ones to respond. One of the little ones landed about 2 feet from me, much to her horror, which resulted in what I can only describe as a severe scolding! The whole process was really interesting, and amazing!

  2. Anthony H. Bledsoeon 18 Jul 2008 at 1:05 pm

    The accepted Spanish name for Scarlet Tanager is tangara escarlata, a literal translation of the English name. It is likely that local regions in Central and South America use different “folk” names for this bird, names that may not refer to scarlet coloration. But also, remember that males molt into alternate (breeding) plumage while still on the wintering grounds in Panama and northwestern South America, so watchers there do get a chance to see the scarlet plumage.

  3. Marjorieon 19 Jul 2008 at 2:12 pm

    Thanks to you for this interesting article and thanks to Chuck for the great photo. It always amazes me how different the males and females are of so many species. The first time I saw the female Scarlet Tanager I thought it was a warbler (little large for one) but kept watching it in my bins and saw it also had something in its mouth which was good for atlas of course but upon looking in my field guide a little harder and checking all the id marks it became clear that’s what it was and since I had also seen 2 males (brilliant color as you know) in the same “area” at Crooked Creek I felt sure that’s what it was.

  4. RAYon 22 Jul 2008 at 12:59 pm

    THANK YOU, I TOO ENJOY READING YOUR COLUMN. I DO HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT A BABY BIRD. WE WERE OUT GOLFING IN ZELIENOPLE & CAME UPON A BABY BIRD GRAYISH IN COLOR, IT HAD A LITTLE BIT OF YELLOW ON THE END OF IT’S TAIL FEATHERS & A LITTLE BIT OF RED ON THE TIPS OF IT’S WING FEATHERS & POINTED BEAK. I WILL TRY TO SEND A PICTURE. ANY THOUGHTS ON WHAT TYPE OF BIRD THIS WOULD BE?
    THANKS!

  5. Kate St. Johnon 22 Jul 2008 at 1:18 pm

    I probably can’t identify it by your description but my best guess is cedar waxwing. See the pictures at this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cedar_Waxwing

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