Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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[Mystery bird] Western Tanager, Piranga ludoviciana, photographed in Wilsall, Montana. [I will identify this bird for you in 48 hours]

Image: Ron Shimek [larger view].

Olympus OM-10 in an Ikelite Housing, Kodachrome 64 film.

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.


This stunning mystery bird is more than “eye candy”; there is something special about this bird’s breeding habits that set it apart from all its congeners, can you tell me what that is?

The Western Tanager breeds farther north than any other member of its (mostly) tropical family, productive nests being found almost as far north as the Northwest Territories in Canada (60°N).

Review all mystery birds to date.

Comments

  1. #1 Pete Moulton
    July 2, 2010

    Well, yeah…but it’s eye-candy too, GrrlScientist.

    These are common in my area, and arrive apparently already mated, though the breeding habits don’t seem to be all that well known. One hypothesis I’ve read is that they select mates on the wintering grounds, or during migration, while the males of their congeners arrive first, set up territories, and then wait for the ladies to appear.

  2. #2 darwinsdog
    July 2, 2010

    Probably my favorite bird of all that nest here. Seemed like there were a lot passing thru in migration this spring – more than usual.

  3. #3 Robin Durham
    July 2, 2010

    Beautiful birds indeed… a few frequented the bird bath in Moscow, Idaho, during my visit there in late May. While back in Pennsylvania mid June, I was also able to enjoy this forest interior bird’s “scarlet” cousin, and was pleasantly surprised with how similar they sound… like a robin with a sore throat. It seems wrong to simply give the answer away… Thanks for your wonderful posts, I only recently discovered them…

  4. #4 Murray
    July 3, 2010

    We only have these birds passing through but I’ve always thought their song sort of matched their slow progress through our trees: maybe lazy, a little pause between phrases, unhurried. Now, the Black-headed Grosbeak, which also visits only briefly, drives me to madness: loud, demanding, incessant –

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