Melissa Alves

Western Tanagers

Never in a million years would I think that I would get to see a bird as stunning as western tanagers. Seeing one was a pure fluke — I stopped to admire some ferns growing off of a tree trunk, and looked up and just the right moment to see a stunning male high in the treetops. This bird is a large reason that I’d like a serious lens upgrade (which through your support can happen – visit my shop or my support page!)

Finding for Western Tanagers

I’ve only managed to see the one bird so I don’t have a lot of personal experience with this. All About Birds says to scan the canopies of evergreens for best results. They come to British Columbia to breed as early as April, and their numbers begin to dwindle in October as they return to Mexico.


Breeding males are stunning, with bright orange faces, yellow bellies, and black wings. Females and immature males have a less impressive olivey-yellow hue. The orange males get during breeding comes from a rare pigment called rhodoxanthin, which they likely get from insects

Feeding Western Tanagers

This tanager is primarily a fruit eater until the breeding season. During breeding, they will eat more and more insects, likely for the extra protein. A part of me also suspects there just isn’t as many local berries and fruit further north as there is in Mexico so the switch is just practical. Of course, I can’t actually back this up with anything.

Western Tanager, Delta, July 1, 2021


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.