A scarlet tanager in brilliant breeding plumage is a jaw-dropping sight. Pennsylvania is centrally located in the tanagerís range, making these birds common in the region. However, because they prefer to stay high in the forest canopy, it can be difficult to catch a glimpse.
Scarlet tanagers do best on large tracts of wooded land—especially with oaks—such as the area around the banding station. Research shows that their most successful breeding is in a 70% forested environment, with less success on land that is under 50% forested. This places them among the many species that are negatively affected by forest fragmentation.
The scarlet tanagerís voracious appetite for insects is highly beneficial to the environment. Scarlet tanagers have be known to eat more than 2,000 gypsy moth caterpillars in one hour!
A scarlet tanager banded at Powdermill holds the national age record for its species. When recovered in Texas in 2001, the bird was at least twelve years old. Since these birds tend to be faithful to previous nesting sites, it had probably made the amazing twice-per-year migration between Powdermill and its South American wintering grounds for all that time.
Photo: Robert Royse