Western Tanagers could be called “flame birds” because of their bright, colorful plumage and flamed colored heads. The red pigment isn’t produced by the bird but is from their diet of insects that acquire it from insects. The females are much duller than the male above.
The bright yellow and red caught my eye last May while on a dirt road in the Targhee National Forest in Idaho just south of the Montana state line. I knew immediately what species the bird was when I spotted it and I am thrilled that it hung around long enough for me to get a nice series of images. I haven’t had the best opportunities with this species so I jump at every chance I get.
Western Tanagers were first recorded on the Lewis and Clark Expedition and they are primarily a western bird though during the winter vagrants have been found as far away as the eastern coast. Their diet includes berries and insects.
Western Tanagers breed further north than any other species of tanagers. Before long these bright colored birds will move into their breeding territories and maybe, just maybe, I’ll have the opportunity to photograph them again.
Life is good.