Scarlet Tanagers for Mother’s Day!

Mother Nature gave Judy a very nice gift for Mother’s Day – the first Scarlet Tanagers we have ever seen in our garden. They showed up while we were having brunch on the back porch with our son Daniel – coming and going throughout the afternoon.


Scarlet Tanagers are certainly one of the most dramatically colored songbirds to be found in the Midwest. The contrast between the intense scarlet body and the jet-black wings is truly striking.

DSC_0820Scarlet Tanagers are hard to spot because they tend to stay at the top of the tree canopy. They are subtropical migrants, spending their winters in Peru, Ecuador, and Columbia.

DSC_0861The females are a sensible greenish yellow. They apparently do not have to dress to impress like the males.

DSC_0855You are most likely to see a Scarlet Tanager while it is migrating. They were attracted to our yard by the grape jelly that we put out for Baltimore Orioles. The Tanagers eat mostly insects, but they will also eat fruit during the winter and while migrating.

DSC_0858They certainly did chow down on the grape jelly, which also attracts Robins and Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, along with the Orioles.

DSC_0828It was so nice of the Scarlet Tanagers to drop by for our Mother’s Day brunch! We hope to see them again before too much longer.

46 Comments on “Scarlet Tanagers for Mother’s Day!

  1. What a lovely bird. Wonder if they fly through Texas.–I’ll check. Weird question, but do squirrels eat grape jelly? You probably know why I’m asking.

    • Haha! Our grape jelly is well protected by the squirrel baffle, but I imagine they’d eat it if they could.

  2. What a beautiful bird, and what perfect timing! We always get a thrill from unusual birds visiting us when we are sitting outside. I have never seen a Scarlet Tanager, but what a beauty! And very sensible to spend winter in warmer parts of the world.

    • I had been wanting to see a scarlet tanager, but didn’t think we had any. So magnificent!

  3. Wonderful present!! I’ve never seen a Scarlet, though I always have Summer Tanager’s visit to eat my bees. Great shots!!

  4. Wow, what a great backyard visitor! Such a dramatic bird. Last week I saw a juvenile male Summer Tanager on a walk at the Morton Arboretum. I love migration time.

    • We’re still waiting for rose breasted grosbeaks to migrate through.

      • I read that a lot of migration was on hold for a couple of weeks because of the cold. Hope they come by for you. You have such interesting migrating birds. Not much excitement in my yard. Although up north this weekend we saw a black and white warbler and a blackburnian warbler. Both new birds for me!

  5. I misread the title in my feed and thought you were writing about scarlet teenagers! *makes an appointment with the optician
    What pretty birds! I’m so pleased they visited for Mothers’ Day. Wishing a belated happy day to Judy.

    • Scarlet teenagers would be quite different, probably noisier. πŸ˜‰

  6. Migration is such a miracle. It’s a privilege to have visitors like tanagers! I’m envious. Do you get warblers as well? – They are much tinier birds but also gorgeous. They are fast moving so more difficult to spot. Your garden must be an oasis for these travelers.

    • We think we see warblers from time to time, but I’m not so clear about them.

  7. As “hairytoegardener” asked, I’m also inquiring if squirrels eat grape jelly. In my yard, squirrels eat almost anything, and they eat so much. I’ve also never seen a scarlet tanager. They are indeed beautiful. I was lucky during migration this year in that I saw my first-ever Rose-breasted Grosbeak, another gorgeous bird. I only got a few glimpses of him on my feeder before he flew away.

    • Squirrels are stopped very efficiently by our squirrel baffle, so we don’t know if they would like the grape jelly, although we suspect they will eat anything. Most years, we have rose breasted grosbeaks by now – They stay a week or two, and then move on. But this year, nothing yet.

    • Yes, isn’t it! (Plus older son came and hung out all day, and that was great too.)

  8. Maybe they will nest in the tall trees of your neighborhood. Wouldn’t that be fun. I love their burrie call. The only birds that eat the jelly in our garden are the Catbirds and occasionally a Cardinal.

    • Oh, your birds are so much more restrained – I don’t think we have a single bird that doesn’t snarf down grape jelly. Even the woodpeckers!

  9. What a perfect Mother’s Day treat! Yay for Judy!

    • I enjoyed every minute of it. And so glad to spot the tanager on a day when I could sit on the porch rather than rushing off to work.

    • We started putting out grape jelly to attract Baltimore orioles several years ago, and it works like a charm. We’ve had the orioles every year since. We also put out sliced oranges, but they mostly go for the jelly.

  10. What a wonderful suprise you had on Mothersday. Such a beautiful bird. We don’t have them in Holland.
    Have a wonderful day.

    • Thank you! I was quite astounded and didn’t believe my eyes when I first saw the scarlet tanager – I really wasn’t expecting it.

  11. How fortunate you all were at home and able to observe the tanagers. We have seen them here only rarely.

  12. How thoughtful of them to drop by on Mother’s Day! They are really pretty. Much brighter than anything we see here! πŸ™‚

  13. Amazing! You have the trees and they came. I am sure I’ve never had one come anywhere near my yard. Great pictures. πŸ™‚

  14. A stunning bird! Such a vibrant colour! As you say, it’s really going for the grape jelly, I can see you are going to be out of pocket keeping it

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