Summer Tanager

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Photo by Carolynn Waites

I’m not a big birder. But I have realized that paying attention to birds is rewarding in some ways:

  • It gets you outside.
  • It gets you to pay attention to the nature that is around you.
  • You get to see some pretty cool birds that you have never noticed before.
  • You may actually learn something.

I work on Galveston Island. Other than the commute, it’s a great place to work. This time of year, it is spectacular with flowers and birds. A photographer told me that 80% of migrating birds come through Galveston. I have to believe that might be true based on what I’ve been seeing lately.

I was on my lunch break the other day, eating outside to take advantage of the beautiful day. I saw a yellow bird flying from tree to tree near me. I was trying to follow it and get my camera out to get a picture so I could figure out what it was. I lost it. But while looking for it, I found this red bird pictured above. The only red bird I am familiar with is the male cardinal. This is obviously not a cardinal. I ended up getting some great pictures of this red bird, though I never saw the yellow bird again.

When I had access to a computer later, I was able to identify this bird as a male Summer Tanager. Beautiful! The best part of the story is that the female Summer Tanager is yellow! So that was his mate that I was following. Apparently they nest together in the treetops (they like oaks and pines) and they eat insects, often bees and wasps. I read that they will take the bee or wasp in their beak and bang it into the tree to knock the stinger off before they eat it.

According to the book The Birds of Texas by John L. Tveten, The Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra) is the most widespread and abundant tanager in Texas. Why have I never seen one before??? Oh yeah– because I haven’t been paying attention. So once again I remind all of us to look up. Pay attention to the nature around you. You might just get to see something truly beautiful.

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