Through the Looking Glass of Val Lee – Western Tanager

Western Tanager (male) @ Val Lee

What a joy it is when I come across these spectacular, brightly hued birds. Until lately, there have been many in Idaho. This is where I shot the photos and video for this article.

My heart broke when it became known to me that a Western Tanager, Piranga ludoviciana, died in my yard courtesy of one of our two cats. My husband and son decided, minus any hesitation, that it had to be Cassidy who loves only me and hates everyone and everything else. They assumed that sweet Alfredo, who loves everyone and everything, would never kill such a pretty bird. I, of course, defended my cat with my two cents, being poor in defense, and simply let it be known that they are both avid hunters. This is certainly the case though they are declawed, that is, they cannot dispense their front claws. Being on the elderly side, and owning this deficiency, they can still pounce and kill in an instant.

Both cats covet trespassing birds and that cannot be denied. I love and feed the various flyers and consider them part of our property. I had no idea a Western Tanager had become linked to the bird gang on Lee’s land before its demise.

Western Tanager (male) @ Val Lee

I tried to figure out why the ravishing Tanager had come our way. They are attracted to feeders holding oranges, grapes and dried fruits, but I do not provide these fruits for our outside, fly-by diners.

Tanagers also partake of growing berries; however, my raspberries had not yet ripened. Maybe I have plenty of insects in my yard, being they are a delicious delicacy of the Tanagers. They will gobble bugs, rushing upon them from behind, as the gourmet creatures soar through the air.

Western Tanagers love wasps and bees as well, this being their first choice in diet. They will get a belly full of them when my trumpet vine blooms, if they stick around for the feast.

They also eat plant matter, incorporating 15% of their diet.

All bug-gorging creatures are welcome in my yard. It certainly appears that I don’t need a sign to tell them so.

My video: 

When these gorgeous birds, crafted by God, arrived in our area about two weeks ago, people talked and wanted to know the species. When walking in the park, my friend Bev told me that she spotted this yellow and orange bird and wanted to know what it was. I wrongly replied that it was probably an Oriole. They can vary in color within orange and yellow tinting, and the Bullock’s Oriole resides here. Within a few minutes, another friend pointed out a Western Tanager that landed a few yards away. I quickly realized this was the type of flyer Bev had spotted originally. Within a day or so, we saw them flying everywhere in the park.

Western Tanager (male) @ Val Lee

These elegant, western beauties are classified as a Tanager (Thraupidae). They have flip-flopped between being Cardinals (Cardinalidae) and Tanagers. I must say, they certainly do not own the distinctive Cardinal cone-shaped beak. They were thus categorized due to their plumage and vocalizations, which was supposedly found to be similar to Cardinals.

There were 240 birds that were classified as Tanagers, but things are in a muddle currently. Apparently some of these birds require new name tags. They are being shoved from one bird family to another, being reassessed via the AOU—American Ornithologists’ Union.

Despite how man classifies or un-classifies this ave, I have to confess, I do not see why they dubbed the Western Tanager as a Cardinal. I observe their plumage not being similar to Cardinals, but actually to Golden Finches. To me, the Western Tanager is simply a medium sized, colorfully crafted, American songbird, graciously provided for us by the LORD Jesus Christ.

God has manufactured Western Tanagers and all His creatures with unique dissimilarities. He did not form birds so they could fit perfectly into ornithologists’ classifications.

Western Tanager (male) @ Val Lee

Western Tanager adults can be described as displaying a pale, stout, pointed bill. Their underparts and wing bars are yellow. Males expose a bright red to bright orange face and a yellow nape, shoulder, and rump, with black upper back, wings, and tail. In their duller, non-breeding plumage, the head has no more than a reddish cast and the body possesses an olive tinge.

Females display their own distinctions with a yellow head and an olive hue on their back, with dark wings and tail. When shutterbugging, I never noticed any females. Perhaps they were tending the home nest. I say this, noting the male birds were flying in and out of a coniferous fir tree, and it is in these trees that these lifetime lovers prefer to nest.

The dead, male Western Tanager in my yard was found next to our blue spruce. I wonder if the poor fellow had a family.

The Western Tanager’s song consists of short phrases and you might think you are detecting an American Robin; however, the Tanager voice is hoarser and rather monotonous. They seem to say “pit-er-ick.”

The Western Tanager flies northward to its happy nesting grounds in May, making their homes in coniferous or mixed woods across western North America, from the Mexican-American border. They can migrate as far north as southern Alaska. It can be noted that they are the northernmost breeding Tanager.

Like many aves, the Western Tanagers mate for life. You will view no elaborate aeronautical courtship display. They are not showoffs. However, a flirting female will flutter her wings toward a suitor to gain his attention. This type of sign language can also be implemented as the queue for him to personally feed her during their courting days. This “feed me,” dating behavior, is common among birds.

The book of Ruth, in the Bible, is a romantic book. You find the story of a godly man by the name of Boaz, a land owner. One day his heart goes out to an impoverished woman by the name of Ruth. He extends kindness by offering her some bread and dip. Having been informed of her unfaltering reputation, he praises her for being a woman of chastity, and a woman who exercises sacrificial love. Later, she flitters his way, letting him know she is interested in a marriage proposal, at which time, he cheerfully complies. Unfortunately, a villain lies in the way. Once “he” is removed from the picture, they marry and live happily, ever-after.

This divinely, appointed relationship was completely orchestrated by God. Because this couple feared God, He allowed them to be grafted into the ancestry line of Jesus Christ.

The vibrant, happy, singing couple of Western Tanagers will engage in tweet talk with short, song notes of admiration. Their solid lifetime bond may form on wintering grounds or during migration.

The enthusiastic pair will build a flimsy cup nest on a tree branch, usually in a conifer for their arriving, sweet, wee bairns. They lay four bluish-green eggs with brown spots. The papa of the nest eggs, establishes and defends home and property (territory) by singing and chasing away intruders. Gestation or incubation is 13 days, and the young fledge or fly at seven days of age.

These birds migrate south in August, wintering in Southern California, Central Mexico and Costa Rica.

Their life expectancy is around eight years.

Western Tanager (male) @ Val Lee

Psalm 104, in the Bible, uplifts the God of creation who sends forth springs in the valleys that flow between the mountains and provides drink for every beast of the field, including the birds of the heavens that lift up their voices among the branches. To learn more about God who created you uniquely, and provides for you, please click here:

letter-to-bird-enthusiast

I have a couple of cat stories about Cassidy and Alfredo at my other website under the category of “cat story.”  Please click here: vallee

*Info gratefully gathered from various web sources.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jmgoyder
    Apr 07, 2012 @ 04:36:46

    What a beautiful bird and a beautiful post!

    Reply

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