Western Tanager

Hey guys, welcome back! Today’s bird is an interesting one as it’s a western species, meaning the bird I actually saw was a vagrant. What is a vagrant in animal terms? Well, simply put, it’s an animal (in this case a bird) that strays far outside its normal range. The western tanager is typically found between the western Great Plains and the Pacific Ocean. So how’d one end up in NYC? Well, the causes for vagrancy in birds isn’t known exactly. Sometimes a storm can blow a migrating bird off course. Some scientists suspect a mutation or abnormality in the bird’s internal magnetic detection system that throws off its navigation.

In either case, one ended up in Manhattan’s City Hall Park one fall. Many a birder flocked (pun intended) to see the bird. It had been there for a couple of weeks or so in total if I remember correctly. I managed to head down and see the bird for myself. Truth be told, had it not been identified as a western tanager, I might not have known it was one. The bird was a female, and like the female of most tanager species, was an olive green rather than the bright colors of a male. Male western tanagers are a bright yellow with a red-orange face offset by black wings. Females are separated from other female tanagers by the wingbars. A fact I learned after seeing this bird and trying to determine how to tell the difference.

They are similar in habits to other tanager species and I look forward to the day I finally head out west to bird and see another. Next up is an irruptive little winter finch. See you then!

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