This post was not easy! The three photographs represent the end result of a lot of spent energy and sneaking through the forest! The bird in the photographs is the male Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea). Two things I know: The Scarlet Tanager is is one of the most beautiful avia in North America, and it is one of the most difficult nature photographs to obtain. In all my years of wandering the Tennessee fields and forest, this is only the second time I have been able to get decent photographs of this species.
The Scarlet Tanager is a denizen of the deep deciduous forest, and it spends the majority of its time in the canopy, thus the difficulty in getting a photograph. They migrate in autumn to northern South America, then return to portions of the southern and eastern United States in spring for the nesting season. The male is deep red with black wings and a black tail. Adults average about 6”-7” in length. The female is not as striking as the male, being more of a yellow/green in color with drab olive wings. Interestingly, this is also the color of the male in winter plumage.
The only other Tennessee bird with a similar coloration is the Northern Cardinal. The male Cardinal is easily distinguished from the Scarlet Tanager by the following field marks: the Cardinal has a red crest, black facial markings, and does not have the solid black tail and black wings. As with most nature photographs, this opportunity presented itself in spontaneous fashion. Walking along the edge of a field that bordered deciduous forest, I caught just a flash of red in the corner of my eye as the bird flew into the wooded area. Knowing at first glance this was not an everyday sighting, I went back to my vehicle for the camera and the hunt was on. I actually spotted two male Tanagers when I returned but only one posed for the camera.
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