Monday, June 17, 2013


First he tried to break in through my living room bay window. It was totally unexpected.

Click, click, ka-thunk.

I jumped; my book did a loop-de-loop with a bad landing on my armchair table, barely missing my coffee. All I caught was a flash of red and he was gone. Once I caught my breath a flicker of movement across the room showed two of my cats in hunt mode slinking, belly down, across the room.

Click, click, ka-thunk.

Casey on my desk and my Dragon 
My cup of coffee did not survive the second attack on the window or the twenty-pound cat leaping up and over. She’s a Maine Coon cat (on her mama’s side) and huge. Despite her size she’s incredibly fast.

As I mopped up the coffee I watched with bemusement as a flash of red flew first at one side then the other of the window then moved to the porch railing and back to the window for another run. Hover and attack. Repeat again and again.

I couldn't make out what he was other than bright red. But I became accustomed to his fascination with my window and dive-bombing the lower areas where two of my cats settled on the wide window seat for a front row view.

Then he tried to break in through my kitchen garden window while I was doing dishes and about scared the life out of me. The saucer didn't make it.

Then he fell in love with my car. Granted, he has good taste but my car window had...gunk on it. Then my car developed multiple paw prints because, of course, the pride of cats had to investigate. I moved the car from near the oak tree where his nest was located. Three hundred feet away seems to be the magic number.

All the while I’m trying to figure out what he was. It was a mystery. Not a Cardinal, which has more sense than to attack my windows and his song, is prettier. He sits up on the oak branches (or on the front porch railing) and sings his heart out. Beautiful repertoire. Definitely not a Cardinal. I have a Mockingbird family in another oak out front. Two different males almost drown out the other birds like my Golden Finches, Grosbeaks, and Orioles. I have a lot of Robins who sing, Bluebirds, and a couple of pairs of Indigo Buntings, but they’re usually in the back yard area. A truly marvelous symphony happens in my yard everyday. J

Wiki commons
I finally identified him. He’s a Summer Tanager. His mate is sort of a golden color with some reddish tones, but I only see her once in a while. Summer Tanagers were once classified as songbirds and now are classified as part of the Cardinal family. I've seen Tanagers before, at a distance, and thought they were Cardinal without the black markings or the crest. I thought they might be an immature male Cardinal? Didn't think much of it until I got a close look at this one as he assaulted my windows.

wiki commons
My area is a prime breeding area for the Tanager. While they’re raising babies they consume a lot of bees, wasps (they knock the stinger off against the tree and then carry it to the nest) and fruit, like Poke berries and blackberries. This guy does not like any squirrels in his tree. I've watched him chase them off. He also doesn't like Blue Jays, which is understandable, considering Jays will attack the young of other birds. I do have a pair of Jays that customarily raise their young on the far eastern boundary of my yard. They mostly stay away from each other but do clash now and then.

So, the mystery red bird has been identified and although I’m not thrilled with his window attacks—which are becoming less frequent or I’m becoming inured.  I am happy he’s taken out two good-sized wasp nests near the front bay window and the one near the front porch. Saves my husband from spraying them, as he’s had to do the last few years. He is fine looking bird and makes beautiful music.

I’m going to miss him when he leaves for Mexico. I hope he returns next spring.

Here's his song.


Jo said...

We used to get Summer Tanagers in our yard in North Carolina. They used to love our bird bath. Don't remember hearing their song. I am now wondering if we have them here, the song sounds like a song I have been hearing from our park. Must check on their range.

Luanne G. Smith said...

Oh, I envy your song birds and cardinals. Where I live we don't get a great variety. A few goldfinches and orioles too look at, but I'm too far west for cardinals.

Sounds like your guy was in full-on testosterone mood, ready to kill any rivals, including his reflection. Glad the cats didn't get him. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I bet he's driving your cats crazy as well.

Arlee Bird said...

Never heard of that kind of a bird, but it's a beautiful red. We don't get many birds in our yard, but our yard isn't very big either.

Tossing It Out

L. Diane Wolfe said...

They won't be around long if they keep beating their heads on your windows.

Unknown said...

We love bird watching and would have loved a visit from your beautiful friend! He's lovely!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Jo, they do head up your way so I wouldn't be surprised if you find a Tanager in your park. There are several different types and there songs vary a bit.

LG--I do love having a yard full of birds. The variety is amazing. I missed the Cardinals when I lived in California. They're so very bright and pretty. Bet you get Bluebirds though. They sound pretty too, and I love the bright flashes of blue. Like flying flowers.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Alex--Casey stays inside. She's a true 'fraidy cat. She lays there on the window seat and watches. The other cats check him out and walk away. They have more aggressive birds to contend with.

I have a Barn Swallow family that has nested here for 6 years and they hatched 5 babies this year. Mom and pop Swallow don't like the cats near where the nest is and and swoop down and try to chase them off. They drive my cats nuts.

These babies will fledge in about a week. Last year they left the nest in the early morning hours before the cats realized it. By 7:30 am they were gone.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Lee, my yard is huge and we have a lot of birds nesting. It's fun to watch and I love having birds in the yard.

Diane,those claws of his make a lot of noise. Silly bird.

Jen--He is lovely so bright and pretty and love his song. :-)

Liza said...

Pretty bird. Your first sentence would be a great start to a short story...or more!

Tara Tyler said...

what a great bunch of characteristics this bird has! sounds like a fun male protagonist, tough & handsome, but so vain he walks into his reflection in mirrors!