Daily Archives: April 18, 2018

Warblers and tanager in town

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When I saw these little birds a couple of blocks from home last night, I went back and got my camera.

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Warblers, I guessed, stopping in delicious Sewall’s Point on their way north. Delicious because we have lots of mature vegetation, fruiting and flowering trees and shrubs, and tasty little bugs.

Feed the birds… with habitat!

At home I reviewed the pics and decided these were Cape May Warblers, a first for me!

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This one is a female. There were four birds in this tree, flying out now and then to nab a tiny insect.

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Setophaga tigrina, their name means “moth-eating tiger-striped.”

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The Cape May Warbler breeds across the boreal forest of Canada and the northern United States, where the fortunes of its populations are largely tied to the availability of spruce budworms, its preferred food. Striking in appearance but poorly understood, the species spends its winters in the West Indies, collecting nectar with its unique curled, semitubular tongue.

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A little further north on River Road, I spotted a red bird near the top of a fruiting tree (ficus?) It was not a cardinal.

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Photos not great, but good enough to post on the Facebook group “What’s This Bird” and get an ID: a male Summer Tanager, his plumage changing from non-breeding to breeding colors. Also a first for me, what an evening!

The only completely red bird in North America, the strawberry-colored male Summer Tanager is an eye-catching sight against the green leaves of the forest canopy. The mustard-yellow female is harder to spot, though both sexes have a very distinctive chuckling call note. Fairly common during the summer, these birds migrate as far as the middle of South America each winter. All year long they specialize in catching bees and wasps on the wing, somehow avoiding being stung by their catches.

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Summer Tanagers specialize on bees and wasps on both their breeding and wintering ranges. They also eat other aerial and terrestrial invertebrates—such as spiders, cicadas, beetles, ants, termites, grasshoppers, flies, moths, and bugs—as well as fruits such as mulberries, blackberries, pokeweed, Cecropia, citrus, and bananas. They capture flying insects during short sallies, carrying their prey back and beating it repeatedly against the perch. They glean terrestrial insects from the leaves and bark of trees and shrubs. To harvest fruit, they may hover and pluck individual fruits, or glean from a perched position.

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That red color in the setting sun! There were a few Cape Mays in this tree too.

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I should have flicked over from autofocus to manual focus, but I was so worried it would fly off while I looked down.

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Soon this bird will be red all over.

These are my 84th and 85th Florida birds and 63rd and 64th 2018 birds.