ARTISTS AND BIRDS

"Weird Spring - Many Birds"

Western Tanager

        You will probably agree that this has been a weird Spring. Weird in the fact that it was hot one day and then snowed the next . . . it was spring weather in all its glory for about a week, and then so cold and stormy the winter coats went back on. This hot/cold happened over and over. This was the spring where Washington County stayed green and the surrounding mountains stayed white. Weird is good when our area is filled with birds, just hanging around, waiting for it to warm up so they can western tanagermigrate north. And isn’t that what a lot of us do? Hang around southern Utah until the weather is good enough to take off to our favorite summer place?

        This is the year of beautiful birds stuck here by necessity. I appreciate the calls from southern Utah residents who tell me about a bird they just encountered. In the last month I’ve heard "I saw the most amazing bird!" several times. Western Tanagers were the favorites, spotted at Tonaquint, Main Street Pond, Santa Clara Heights, Washington Fields, Grafton, and Springdale. When a bird has a bright red head, yellow body and black wings . . . you just have to tell someone about it. The red pigment in the face is rhodoxanthin, obtained by eating plants containing the pigment or by eating insects that have fed on those plants. The red disappears in autumn and winter.

        The Western Tanager is a long-distance migrator. Every year it travels between its winter range in Mexico and Central America (some in southern California), to their breeding and summer range all across western North America to southern Alaska. They are known as the northernmost-breeding tanager at altitudes up to 10,000 feet. These birds are often out of sight, foraging high in the tree canopy where they can fly out to catch flying insects. If you find a Western Tanager in your neck of the woods, you might entice him to stay temporarily with Safflower, Apple Slices, Suet, Millet, Peanut Kernels, or Fruit. But remember, they are on their way north to cooler areas to spend the summer, so relish the encounter.

        Bonnie Lofthouse is the artist for the beautiful Western Tanager. Thank you Bonnie for sharing your talent of drawing birds. If you have questions about the Western Tanager, birds in general, or Audubon activities call Marilyn Davis - 435 673-0996.

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