Jul 18 2008
You’re probably wondering why I called this little brown bird a scarlet baby. It’s because he’s a prematurely fledged scarlet tanager. You can see what he’ll look like as an adult if you click on his picture. Quite a difference.
Male scarlet tanagers change color many times as they mature. If this baby is male, it will take him two years to become solid red and black like his father. You can see all the scarlet tanager plumage variations – both male and female – by clicking here. It’s bewildering how many colors the same bird can be.
Scarlet tanagers molt twice a year. The male is red and black in breeding season, green and black in the non-breeding season which tanagers spend in northwestern South America (Columbia, Ecuador, Peru). The female is always yellowish green.
Those who see green-colored scarlet tanagers from November to March must wonder why we call them scarlet. I’m sure they have a different name for them.
Maybe one of you can tell me what it is.
p.s. See the comments below for the answer!
(photo by Chuck Tague)