Missing Summer Tanagers

Like the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, almost all of our neotropical birds – birds that spend the summer here and winter in Mexico, Central or South America or the Caribbean – have seemed fewer and farther between than usual in our neighborhood this year. This may be, at least in part, because the month of June has been very gray and rainy so far, though I’m not sure that’s the only reason. All the trees and other vegetation are lush and green, and it’s hard to complain about rain when we’ve had so many hot, dry years. But it’s begun to seem like a very wet and soggy summer – and a summer with few birds.

Most of the usual summer species are here – I can find them – but they’re harder to find, not as common a part of a summer day. In past years, for instance, Summer Tanagers have been among our most familiar birds. Their lilting, Robin-like songs and the quiet pik-a-tuk calls of the pair are among summer’s most characteristic sounds. The rose-red male and yellow female haunt the trees around our back yard and in wooded areas throughout the neighborhood, hunting for insects. But this year, although I hear a Summer Tanager singing most days, it’s usually in the distance, and I only see one now and then around our own yard – and even less often in other parts of the neighborhood.

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