Western Tanager

Piranga ludoviciana

Western Tanager
Photo courtesy of Tom Grey

Brightly colored birds are related to warblers and finches. They have long, thick bills and feed mostly on fruit and insects.

Male has brilliant red head, bright yellow body, black back, wing and tail. Two yellow wing bars are visible. Bill is gray, feet dark gray. Female has two phases: one, greenish yellow with gray back and the other is mostly gray with yellow only on the head and under tail. Both phases have brown wing with two light wing bars. Medium sized 6-7 ½ inches.
Call a slurred pit-er-ic. Song is strong and carries far; a series of 2 to 3 syllable slow phrases.
Forages in foliage. Eats wasps and other insects, often catching them in air; also, berries and fruit.
Nestled in fork of a horizontal branch, usually low in pine or fir trees. Made of twigs and roots, lined with finer materials. Eggs, 3-5 per clutch; pale blue lightly specked with brown and lilac.
Open conifer and mixed forest; common near mountain picnic areas.
Widespread in west from Alaska down to Baja CA; in mountains of southwest.
Some winter on West Coast, often around flowering eucalyptus. Also into Mexico and Central America.

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