Uncovering the Alluring Charm of the Scarlet Tanager (Piranga rubra)

Here’s a brief and catchy little tune that a bird lover might recognize: “cheerily wee-chew, wee-cher.” It sounds a bit like a robin’s song, but with a slightly blurry quality. This song belongs to a species of bird that is mostly rose red in color, with a yellowish bill. The female of the species has a mustard to gold coloring on her underside, with a darker hue on top (not quite as olive-toned as the female Scarlet Tanager). Her bill is light yellow. In some eastern parts of the species’ range, females may have an overall reddish wash. Juvenile males have a patchy pattern of greenish-olive and red feathers.

In the state of Nebraska, you can find an uncommon spring and fall migrant as well as a summer resident in the southeast region, extending north to Sarpy County. These birds are typically spotted near Schramm Park but can rarely be seen as far west as Scotts Bluff County.

Observations: The adult male creatures maintain their red appearance throughout the year. They tend to scavenge for food among the upper branches of trees.

Interesting Trivia: The Summer Tanager has a particular talent for catching bees and wasps while they are flying, and it is known to be an expert at this skill. To remove the stinger, it rubs it against the bark of a tree.

After capturing the mature insects, the bird lands close to the beehive and rips it apart to expose the young bees or wasps.

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