Scarlet Tanager in White Oaks

This morning at first light, well before sunrise, I heard the quiet but sharp CHICK-brrr call of a Scarlet Tanager in the branches of the white oak trees right outside our bedroom windows. The call was followed by the Scarlet Tanager’s song, and for several minutes I lay in bed, listening to it sing, so close, though screened from view somewhere among the oak leaves.

It’s not a pretty or very musical song. It’s a flat, hoarse series usually of six or seven phrases that sound to me as if the notes are being flung out with some effort. But it also sounds joyous and exuberant, and because I know the singer is a drop-dead gorgeous scarlet bird with jet-black wings it’s a song I love to hear, and it’s always good to know one has returned from its tropical winter home for another season here.

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