Red-n-Black

In my garden, red-n-black doesn’t lack–in bird colors. It’s that time of year, when the colorful migratory birds wing through Texas and (lucky me!) some visit my garden.

In early April, I always see one or more Summer Tanagers, Piranga rubra, who show up to snack on honeybees and native bees. These scarlet hunters are adept at catching the bees on the wing as both birds and bees flit through the garden.

If you look closely at this striking adult male, you’ll see something in his beak–it’s a honeybee.

In this shot, you can see the wings of the bee meal, the red menace in the process of whacking the hapless bee against the branch, effectively killing the bee and making it easier for the tanager to remove the stinger. That’s probably a good idea, considering that the bird is going to have the bee in its beak and down its gullet.

The snack is ready for the eating! I was able to capture these shots because my poor Red oak trees are late in leafing out after the snow/ice storm in February and is lacking in leafy lushness.

In a more colorful photo, the gorgeous guy perches in the freeze damaged, but partially foliaged, Mountain Laurel.

No meal is complete without a complementary aperitif, and what better drink to go with honeybee meal than pond water?

Or, perhaps it was just time to take a bath!

The brief April visits from this species is typically in the form of adult females and juvenile males, who are just as beautiful as this year’s male: golden feathers for the female and splotchy red and yellow for the youngster. Mr. Male was only here for a matter of minutes; I hope more of these tanager treats show up in my garden.

Another annual spring migratory visitor are Red-winged Blackbirds, Agelaius phoeniceus. I have a tough time catching these stunning birds as they’re quick with their seed and peanut eating, plus they fly off at the slightest movement. I was lucky to snap a photo of this handsome chap as he enjoyed a sip at the bar.

The male Red-winged Blackbird is a velvety, deep black, with underwing highlights of deep red and rich yellow. Their underwing colors are more visible when the bird is in flight, but significantly more challenging to photograph. But I’m content with this capture of his profile of midnight black, with bits of cheery color, and bright eye to complete the bird package.

Bird stories, garden stories–get your fill by popping over to Anna at Wednesday Vignette. Happy reading!

22 thoughts on “Red-n-Black

  1. Oh, beautiful photos! I always expect the scarlet tanagers around early May here, but we’re about two weeks early with so many things this year. I have the oranges out for the orioles, and soon I’ll put out the hummingbird feeders. Exciting times!

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  2. More great photos! I guess that is one plus for the lack of leaves. I can hear the Tanagers in the trees, but rarely see them. The first Tanager I ever saw was after Ike. It was a female and I thought it was a sick Cardinal.

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    • Haha–that’s my take: no leaves, easier to see the birds. I only get these tanagers for a brief time, but they’re consistent, so I keep an eye out for them each and every early April.

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  3. My first lesson here was that it’s ‘tanager,’ not ‘tananger.’ That aside, if I’d seen your bird, I would have thought it was a scarlet tanager. After a little extra exploration at the Cornell site, I discovered the error of my ways! They’re quite different birds.

    I love the red-winged blackbirds! They’re one of the birds that were common both in Iowa and here on the coast. I often found them singing from cornstalks there; here, they love perching on the cattails and filling the air with song.

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    • Yes, it’s weirdly tempting to add that extra ‘n’! And you’re one up on me, as I’ve never seen a Scarlet tanager, but I know they’re around here, just not around me!

      Red-winged Blackbirds are one of my favorites. So beautiful and I love their various calls–pure sopranos!

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  4. Tina your visitors are very beautiful. Summer tanagers are beautiful with their red color and they are good bee hunters, I love them. The series of photos of thongs is magnificent, I love it. After bathing in the male’s pond, how handsome he gets, I love it. The male Red-winged Blackbird is a unique beauty, I love it. How they like to eat peanuts and are fast eating. He’s gorgeous at the bar drinking water, I love them. The photos of the red-winged blackbirds are fabulous. You have wonderful singers. Tina take good care of you and Bee Daddy. I hope you are already vaccinated or you will be vaccinated soon. My dear Mother was given the first dose on April 9 and the second dose was given on April 30. I have an appointment for the first dose on May 10th. Best wishes to both of you. Happy week. Very affectionate greetings from Margarita.

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    • Gracias, Margarita! I love seeing these pretty birds, they brighten the garden.

      Yay for you and your mother! I’m so glad you’re both getting the vaccinations. Good luck! We’re getting our second dose tomorrow; so relieved!

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