Scarlet Tanager Family

Too nice a day to stay inside, so early in the afternoon yesterday, I went out to sit on the deck for a while and was watching Ruby-throated Hummingbirds chase each other around the feeder when a small feeding flock of mostly Chickadees and Titmice came around, with a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, a couple of Carolina Wrens, and Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers. One Brown Thrasher and one Chipping Sparrow sat quietly screened in the leaves. A Cardinal peeped.

I heard the pik-a-tuk calls of Summer Tanagers – and then the sharp chik-brrr call of a Scarlet Tanager. There was a flurry of activity in the branches of some pines at the edge of the woods. After a couple of minutes, I realized that there were two Scarlet Tanager juveniles fluttering their wings and begging, and being fed by an adult.

The juveniles both looked dusky and streaked on the upper breast, and showed some yellow in the wings and under the tail. The adult was a female, yellow-green with darker, shadowy wings. The juveniles both stayed mostly low and huddled on a thick and sturdy branch of the pine, widely separated, well camouflaged against the lichen and bark, and partially screened by green needles. When the adult came in with food, they fluttered their wings and begged, and the adult seemed to alternate, feeding one and then the other, though I’m not sure it was exactly even. This went on for at least 15 minutes, maybe more, with the female feeding the juveniles several times. I did not see a male adult. When they finally flew – both juveniles following the parent – the young ones made little muted squeaking sounds.

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