An early summer burst of color in the Jackson Hole valley.
Western Tanagers pass through Jackson Hole around the last week of May and extending into the first couple of weeks of June. They share the turf with other colorful migratory birds like Bullock’s Orioles, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Lazuli Buntings, Evening Grosbeaks, and Cedar Waxwings. Bears may be along the roadsides in the Tetons, but I often spend that period in my back yard capturing these little gems. By the time they appear here, they are already in their breeding colors. In most years, I get numerous Western Tanagers—sometimes as many as 30 males in the back yard at one time, plus a lot of females. They can look like Christmas Ornaments against the green leaves and trees.
Western Tanagers are attracted to slices of oranges and orange flavored suet, but they also eat other sweet fruit like grapes, cherries, raspberries, and even apples.
Western Tanagers winter in the southern section of Mexico and are much less colorful there. You can read more about Western Tanagers at : All About Birds vis Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
The male Western Tanagers usually have a bright red head with the bright yellow body. Females range from olive green to olive gray.
I always assumed the amount of red on their heads were an indication of their age, but I am not certain of this characteristic.
At some point around the 10th to the 14th of June, most of the Tanagers pass on through my yard and continue north. I’ve seen them around the lake shore area of Jackson Lake and even into Yellowstone. I watch for them passing through in the latter parts of summer, but I don’t recall ever seeing them. The images above were all taken in 2013. I’ve been photographing them regularly since round 2008. MJ
Equipment Notes: All of the photos above were taken with a Nikon D4 and a Nikon 200-400 lens on a Gitzo tripod with an Arca-Swiss Z-1 Ball Head and a Wimberley Sidekick.
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Please Note: All of the images on this page are fully copyrighted with the US Copyright Office. ©2013 Mike R. Jackson – All Rights Reserved