I’ve only had a few opportunities with Western Tanagers this season and most of the time the birds were either too buried in the leaves of trees to get clear, full body shots or when they were out in the open they took off before I could even focus on them. That is simply a part of being a bird photographer, our subjects have wings and they do whatever they want to do.
Female Western Tanager in a Serviceberry – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 800, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light
On August 24th I did have an opportunity to photograph this female Western Tanager out in the open perched on a Utah Serviceberry for a second or two. I had seen her fly into the shrub and watched as she made her way through the foliage for several minutes, I kept hoping she would show her full body and when she did eventually and I was ready.
Western Tanagers do eat fruit but their primary diet during the breeding season consists primarily of insects such as bees, wasps, termites, ants, dragonflies, caterpillars, cicadas, stinkbugs, grasshoppers and hornets. This female tanager appeared to be looking for insects not fruits as she made her way through the bush. Her crouching posture may have been because she was out in the open and because there had been repeated flyovers by a Cooper’s Hawk that morning and she was wary.
Close up of a female Western Tanager with a Bald-faced Hornet – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/320, ISO 800, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light
This is the same female Western Tanager as shown in the first photo above and there was a time gap of 18 minutes between these images but I had been keeping one eye on her as she foraged in the clump of fruit trees and when just her head popped out of the leaves I could see that she had captured a Bald-faced Hornet in her bill. She was fun to photograph.
Life is good.