The male Scarlet Tanager is unmistakable, a bright red bird with black wings, slightly larger than a sparrow. The female is muted yellowish green overall, with darker greenish gray wings. Both have thick, slightly curved beaks and shortish tails.
These secretive birds glean from foliage rather high up in deciduous or evergreen forest trees. In breeding season they mainly consume insects. For gleaning they reportedly favor the yellow birch (Betula allegheniensis), American beech (Fagus grandifolia) and sugar maple (Acer saccharum). They are monogamous by season, but switch mates from year to year. Their song resembles the robin’s.
What brings it to the SBG?
Food, cover, nesting sites. Research has shown that the scarlet tanager is highly sensitive to forest habitat fragmentation and generally requires a larger acreage than is present at SBG, but the species has been documented in smaller patches. In August 2015 a female was observed in a birch tree (one of its favored species) in the woodland garden. An abundance of insects and at least some area for nesting sites may have enticed a pair to breed in the SBG habitat.
When can I see it?
Spring and summer. The Scarlet Tanager migrates all the way to northwestern South America for the winter.