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Old Monday 25th April 2005, 13:08   #1
arthurgrosset
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Help with tanager ID please

I took the attached in February in Cuba. It was singing loudly in woodland in the Zapata Swamp.
I assume it is a Summer Tanager. Can anyone confirm please? Is this what a non-breeding male's plumage looks like?
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Old Monday 25th April 2005, 14:19   #2
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I'd say Summer Tanager. Scarlet's bill is not as long or heavy, and you'd expect a more greenish hue (allowing for color distortion of photo, of course). "Mustard" is how one guide describes the color of basic plumage Summer, and that's exactly the color I see in the photo.

(I'm assuming of course that we've narrowed it down to just Summer vs. Scarlet)
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Old Monday 25th April 2005, 14:37   #3
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Now, I like adult female Scarlet Tanager for this pic...Looking at my Sibley and other pics in Google, the Summer hardly has any wing-bars, this one clearly shows them. The Summer also has a olive green wash on sides. I think the bill looks larger because of the perspective.

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Summer Tanager/Scarlet Tanager
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Old Monday 25th April 2005, 14:54   #4
crispycreme
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Well, except behavior of Arthur's bird makes one think male, not female, although in both species the basic plumaged male is nearly identical to the female. In any case, going back to the wings, the Scarlet's is much darker, and more in contrast to the rest of the body, as can be seen in your two examples. I don't see as much contrast Arthur's pic between wing and body (but there is some, isn't there?), but again that could be because of distortion and light.
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Old Monday 25th April 2005, 15:33   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crispycreme
Well, except behavior of Arthur's bird makes one think male, not female, although in both species the basic plumaged male is nearly identical to the female.
This is interesting; I can't find any reference to adult male breeding/non-breeding plumage for the Summer Tanager. Doesn't it have non-breeding plumage? I can find it for the Scarlet in every reference, so if we lean to the side of it being a male, it would most definitely lean to non-breeding male Scarlet. I don't know...it just doesn't fit either. No one said birding was easy right?

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Old Monday 25th April 2005, 15:47   #6
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If you want the view of a Brit who has seen a massive total of 4 Tanagers ever, (including a frustratingly unidentified one in the UK) this is a Summer. The Yellowy - rather than dark underside to the tail and bill shape together with the lack of wing contrast are the features I base this on.

Mind you I had to look hard to convince myself this wasn't an oriole to start with!
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Old Monday 25th April 2005, 15:58   #7
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I've seen far more Hepatics than Summers (and no Scarlets at all), but as Jane said, the light yellow undertail and the bill length say Summer more than Scarlet.

However, I don't have any field guides that give the range of Hepatic, which also has the longer bill length and yellow undertail, so don't know if that's something to think about. Too bad we can't see the head shape of Arthur's bird; Summer always has that more pointy look to the top of the head (both sexes), which is one way to distinguish Hepatic from Summer where I am since the plumage for Hepatic is highly variable.
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Old Monday 25th April 2005, 16:08   #8
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I think Summer Tanager males keep the same bright plumage outwith their breeding season (unlike Scarlet T.)? -If so then it's not a male Summer Tanager (looks good for a female-but this bird was singing!).
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Old Monday 25th April 2005, 16:18   #9
crispycreme
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Quote:
Originally Posted by weather
This is interesting; I can't find any reference to adult male breeding/non-breeding plumage for the Summer Tanager. Doesn't it have non-breeding plumage? I can find it for the Scarlet in every reference, so if we lean to the side of it being a male, it would most definitely lean to non-breeding male Scarlet. I don't know...it just doesn't fit either. No one said birding was easy right?

Mike

I think Nat'l Geo shows both plumages (am at work now, so I don't have the book handy - it may just show juvenile vs. adult, although one might suspect that the plumage of juv & basic adult male is similar). Summer apparently does have both alternate and basic plumage, as discussed here:

Quote:
Plumages and Molts <-- link here

<snip> Two Molts: The following list applies only to those North American birds found north of Mexico. They have two molts and therefore two plumages a year, both basic and alternate plumages. These birds are: loons; grebes; Northern Gannet; pelicans; cormorants; darters; herons, bitterns and allies; ibises and spoonbills; storks; flamingos; shelducks; true ducks (Anatinae); ptarmigans; New World quail; rails, gallinules and coots; limpkins; cranes; lapwings and plovers; oystercatchers; stilts and avocets; sandpipers, phalaropes and allies; pratincoles; skuas, jaegers, gulls, terns and skimmers; auks, murres and puffins; Eurasian Wryneck; most tyrant flycatchers, including the genus Empidonax [see Pyle (1997) for exceptions]; shrikes; some vireos, including Black-capped Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo and Warbling Vireo [see Pyle (1997) for details]; swallows (probably very limited prealternate molt in most species); nuthatches, except White-breasted Nuthatch; Sedge Wren and Marsh Wren; Old World warblers and gnatcatchers; Old World flycatchers; wagtails and pipits; most wood-warblers [see Pyle (1997) for exceptions]; some tanagers, including Summer Tanager, Scarlet Tanager and Western Tanager; most sparrows and buntings (Emberizidae); most Cardinalidae, including Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Black-headed Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak (first prealternate molt only), Lazuli Bunting, Indigo Bunting, Painted Bunting and Dickcissel; some blackbirds, including Bobolink, and orioles (mainly first prealternate molt); and a very few finches, including goldfinches. Omitted from the above are some passerines whose prealternate molt is so very limited (e.g., a few head feathers) that little or no detectable change by molting occurs. Note: Some birds listed above may have a supplemental plumage that has not been detected. See Pyle (1997) for more information and exceptions to the above. </snip>
(the above is a very good web page on molt and plumages by the way, except don't be confused by the colors used to illustrate the Scarlet Tanager plumage cycle: "Colours are not actual, but represent different feather generations after each molt")

Last edited by crispycreme : Monday 25th April 2005 at 17:18. Reason: clarification
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Old Monday 25th April 2005, 20:23   #10
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So, where is Arthur? We could use some insight. Help us, help you.

Mike
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Old Monday 25th April 2005, 23:10   #11
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Sorry Mike but I've been off-line for a while.

As crispycreme suggested I looked up the National Geographic Guide which says for Summer Tanager: "Adult male is rosy red year-round. First-spring males are patchy green-and-red; full adult plumage is acquired by second fall."
For Scarlet Tanager it says the male "molts to yellow-green winter plumage"

With regard to distribution Garrido & Kirkonnell in "Birds of Cuba" say for Summer Tanager:"Rare winter resident in Cuba...(1 Sep - 28 Apr)" and for Scarlet Tanager:"Rare transient in Cuba, more common in fall than in spring (21 Sep - 6 Nov; 16 Feb - 18 Apr)" This photo was taken on 14 Feb. The only other Piranga tanager for Cuba is one unconfirmed record of Western Tanager.

My initial thought was female Summer Tanager but the bird was singing. It's not a non-breeding male nor, apparently, an immature male and a returning Scarlet Tanager would be very unusual at that time of year.

So despite everyone's help, for which much thanks, I don't think we have a definite id.
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Old Tuesday 26th April 2005, 00:14   #12
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Don't know if the following helps, but just looked up the Tanagers in my Sibley's "Bird Life and Behavior" and he says that female Scarlet Tanagers do sing "...particularly while foraging or gathering nest materials. Her song is typically softer and shorter than the male's. The reason for the female's singing is unclear. Researchers speculate that it serves as a way for mated birds to communicate whenthey are separated."

On plumage variations, he has this to say: "Beginning at the end of July or early August, the male Scarlet Tanager molts from his bright red and black alternate plumage to a drab, female-like basic plumage. Individuals show varying degrees of red splotches until molting is complete. Male Western Tanagers (Piranga ludoviciana) also lose some color in winter (most notably their red heads) but otherwise retain the same overall color pattern as they have in summer. Adult males begin to regain their summer colors in March and April. The other North American tanagers do not change plumage seasonally.

"There is some geographic variation in the Summer (Piranga rubra) and Hepatic (P. flava) Tanagers. Western populations of Summer Tanagers are slightly larger and paler compared to eastern birds; western females typically appear grayer above, while some eastern females may show an overall reddish wash. Taxonomists have at times recognized five or more subspecies of Hepatic Tanagers, based on differences in size and intensity of coloration; only two of these subspecies occur in North America."

In my "Birds of Costa Rica" by Stiles & Skutch, the Summer Tanager is described:
"Adult male: below rosy-red; above darker and duskier rose-red; remiges dusky with rose-red edgings. Female: Above olive; below yellow-olive with an overall ochraceous or orange tinge, brightest on crissum. Upper mandible horn-color to yellowish-horn, lower pale yellowish; legs grayish. Immature male: like adult female but below averaging brighter yellow, often tinged with orange and often with scattered red feathers, especially about head, breast, and back. Female: averages duller than adult female, above greener and below more buffy; feathers of wings edged with brownish or grayish."
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Old Tuesday 26th April 2005, 00:20   #13
crispycreme
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arthur
As crispycreme suggested I looked up the National Geographic Guide which says for Summer Tanager: "Adult male is rosy red year-round. First-spring males are patchy green-and-red; full adult plumage is acquired by second fall."
Foiled by my own advice! I suppose it would've been beneficial had I read through the descriptions instead of just looking at the pretty pictures. Still, the Summer does have two plumages, at least according to Canadian ornithologists (those whacky Canuck birders!), so it seems there's a discrepancy. Unless... unless the basic plumage is just a less vibrant shade of red than the alternate.
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Old Tuesday 26th April 2005, 00:44   #14
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According to Raffaele et al, Western tanager has been found as a vagrant on Cuba, while hepatic tanager has yet to be seen in the Caribbean incl Bahamas. That leaves Summer and Scarlet as the less unlikely, where Summer is an uncommon migrant and rare resident, while Scarlet has status of rare migrant primarily in September and October, and even less frequent in March to May. A point to notice according to Raffaele et al. is that females have white (scarlet) or yellow (Summer) wing linings. Was this noticed during the sighting?

According to Howell and Webb (Mexico), Scarlet female has Lemon-yellow undertail coverts and wings darker greyish edged olive. These are pointers that I cannot see in the photo? It looks as if the undertail is similar to the rest of the underside.

Overall, summer for me.

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Old Tuesday 26th April 2005, 00:59   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jane Turner
Mind you I had to look hard to convince myself this wasn't an oriole to start with!
Ah hell! It does fit a female adult Orchard Oriole too. Actually even closer. Greenish body, well defined wing-bars...Are they in Cuba?

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Old Tuesday 26th April 2005, 01:29   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by weather
Ah hell! It does fit a female adult Orchard Oriole too. Actually even closer. Greenish body, well defined wing-bars...Are they in Cuba?

Mike
Orchard and Hooded are very rare/vagrants, Baltimore uncommon, Black-cowled common.

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Old Tuesday 26th April 2005, 02:04   #17
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Note that male Scarlet in basic plumage indeed does look like females, but they keep their black wings & tail, making ID of ad. male Scarlet in basic plumage rather straight forward:

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/BOW/SCA...ale_scatan.gif

"Basic" male Summer (of which I've observed many) is similar to the males many have observe in the US except a bit paler - as I think others already established in previous posts. This leaves us with four possibilities: A juv. of either species or a female of either species. A loudly singing juvenile? Probably not. Furthermore, there is the edging on the wing coverts: All info I have been able to locate indicate that Scarlet only has it infrequently and that it is rather indistinct if present. On the other hand the edging to the wing coverts seem to be a pretty standard thing in both juv. and female Summer, though certainly not present in all individuals. Regardless, the colours of the underparts alone (as noted by other in previous posts) would be enough for me to think Summer. Bill shape & colour point in the same direction, though bill colour only can be regarded as an indication of ID and the shape clearly is somewhat difficult to use from this angle.

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Old Tuesday 26th April 2005, 02:29   #18
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Hadn't even noticed that someone had suggested Oriole. While I certainly do understand how somone could get that idea, I really can't see this as an Oriole, especially shape is wrong (too plump, bill too broad-based, too large-headed & tail). I'll stick with the Summer Tanager. BTW: "Black-cowled Oriole" from Cuba isn't Black-cowled anymore... now it's Greater Antillean Oriole with true Black-cowled in Central America.

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Old Tuesday 26th April 2005, 03:26   #19
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Kind of late to jump in, but I also think it is a female summer tanager. I've seen lots in winter / spring in Mexico and Venezuela and this one looks very similar. As far as the male's plumages go, I've seen many winter residents and they are always red, and I've seen a good number of them in the States in spring / summer and they are still red. I can't say that the shade of red is identical but it is always red. Saw several males and females just yesterday outside of Houston, Tx as they passed through on migration.
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Old Tuesday 26th April 2005, 04:10   #20
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I have seen quite a few of both Scarlet and Summer Tanagers in Missouri. (Only a couple of Hepatic Tanagers.) Some of the males have been rather "splotchy" looking but I have not seen any yellowish-green males.

I agree with those suggesting that this is a female Summer Tanager, using coloration, body form, bill size/color and the greenish cast to the underside of the tail.
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Old Tuesday 26th April 2005, 09:41   #21
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Thanks for all that input.
I rarely use a recorder in the field (there is usually somebody with me who does) but I did infrequently in Cuba and I suddenly remembered that I recorded this bird.
It is in fact a call rather than a song so apologies for that bum steer.
You can find it at http://www.arthurgrosset.com/sabirds/sounds/tanager.mp3
I don't have a Scarlet Tanager recording to compare this with but it does sound similar to Doug Van Gausig's recording of Summer Tanager at http://www.naturesongs.com/paruicte.html#thra

Does everyone agree that this confirms the bird as a female Summer Tanager?
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Old Tuesday 26th April 2005, 12:22   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arthurgrosset
Thanks for all that input.
I rarely use a recorder in the field (there is usually somebody with me who does) but I did infrequently in Cuba and I suddenly remembered that I recorded this bird.
It is in fact a call rather than a song so apologies for that bum steer.
You can find it at http://www.arthurgrosset.com/sabirds/sounds/tanager.mp3
I don't have a Scarlet Tanager recording to compare this with but it does sound similar to Doug Van Gausig's recording of Summer Tanager at http://www.naturesongs.com/paruicte.html#thra

Does everyone agree that this confirms the bird as a female Summer Tanager?
I will have to agree now. Found the call of Scarlet and it's just a little different. Listen to the beginning and you can hear the call. http://www.percevia.com/explorer/db/...79/target.aspx That was fun though and learned a hell of a lot about Tanagers. Thanks!

Mike
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Old Wednesday 27th April 2005, 10:37   #23
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That was fun though and learned a hell of a lot about Tanagers. Thanks!

Mike
I agree Mike. I find this sort of thread one of the great features of Birdforum.
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