Western Tanager

 Photo © Karen Straus/San Diego Audubon Society

Fun Facts:

  • Tanagers use a rare red pigment called rhodoxanthin, which they cannot produce themselves, so they get it via the insects in their diet.
  • Tanagers are mostly foragers but can catch bugs in mid-flight as well.
  • Tanagers migrate very far north, some travel all the way to Northen Canada.
  • Western Tanagers are doing well for themselves and their populations have increased.

This beautiful bird is a male in his breeding plumage. He has stopped over in Rose Canyon to rest and feed during his annual migration. Western tanagers move slowly through the tree canopy looking for insects and sometimes fly catch, darting off their perch to grab an insect in mid-air. Most of the year they live in tropical forests in Mexico and Central America where they eat fruit and berries. Come spring, they migrate to forests in the western U.S. and even up to northern Canada to breed – an amazing round trip for a bird that weighs about an ounce. They migrate at night at high altitudes, and can travel a great distance in a single night. As an urban greenbelt, Rose Canyon provides an important way station for these tropical migrants. 


What does a Western Tanager’s nest look like?

Click for the answer:

They usually lay their eggs in a shallow loosely woven cup of twigs and leaves in the canopy of a tree.