Female Western Tanager in Morgan County, Utah

/, Little Dutch Hollow, Morgan County, Utah, Wasatch Mountains, Western Tanagers/Female Western Tanager in Morgan County, Utah

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, Morgan County, UtahFemale 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, Morgan County, UtahClose 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.



  1. Marty K September 2, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    She is quite the lovely bird — and brave huntress. She’s awfully close to the business end of that hornet!

  2. Elephants Child September 2, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    Brrilliant captures. Yours and hers.

  3. Pepe Forte September 2, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    What a classic pic! Just love seeing hornets bite the dust. Thanks Mia.

  4. April Olson September 2, 2018 at 11:18 am

    Great photos. We had a female western tanager weathering in our mew and she was amazing to watch catch yellow jackets.

  5. Tim Traver September 2, 2018 at 10:16 am

    Nice to be reminded of female Western Tanager. What a role birds play and what an oasis the service berry!

  6. Burrdoo September 2, 2018 at 9:28 am

    Love the close-up shot! Thanks for your patience and persistence and sharing.

  7. Bob mcpherson September 2, 2018 at 7:20 am


  8. Kathy September 2, 2018 at 6:35 am

    I really like the first photo, she blends so well with the surrounding plant life. I especially like her pose! Great photo! She is one brave bird…I wouldn’t grab a ‘Bald-Face’ under any circumstance!

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