Tanagers

A day or two before we got to Pocatello someone had called my mom to ask for help with bird identification (this happens all the time to birders. Usually the callers don’t give you enough information to make an ID.) “Can you tell me what kind of birds are in my backyard? They’re goldfinches with red heads, and they’re eating my bees.” Mom figured out that they weren’t goldfinches at all, but western tanagers. Normally the tanagers don’t live in the valley here, but are found on the surrounding hills; but this spring has been so cold that they may not be finding enough insects yet on the slopes but are staying downtown.

At any rate, Arlene was looking out the kitchen window later in the day and said, “There’s one of the tanagers!” I looked, and only saw a yellow and black bird with a faintly fly away from where she was pointing, but saw another more brightly colored bird on a different branch. The yard was full of them! All right, there were three or a half-dozen of them in the trees at the back of the yard. We’ve been seeing more every now and then; they don’t stay all day, but groups will come through and forage around the trees for fifteen minutes and then move on. They aren’t really tame, but they’re not much shyer than robins. I was able to get reasonably close with a camera. Other people have been telling us they have been seeing them; so I think there are probably several hundred tanagers in Pocatello this week.

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