The male Scarlet Tanager may be a brillant red during breeding season, but it's more likely you'll hear him than see him. Perching high atop the forest canopy, his singing is the best clue to his presence.
Making the longest trip of the four species that travel north, this bird arrives from the Andes each year just as the buds are flowering.
The Scarlet Tanager measures 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 inches in length. Breeding males are a brilliant red with black wings and a black tail.
Female birds are yellowish below and greenish above. The wings are a grayish brown.
Beginning at the end of July or early August, the male bird molts from his bright red and black alternate plumage to a drab, female-like basic plumage.
Individual birds show varying degrees of red splotches until molting is complete.
During courtship the habits of the male change.
Instead of singing high atop the trees as he does when claiming territory, he slips to a lower level where he can spread his wings and display his brilliant color to female birds perched higher up and behind.
With the mating habits complete the nesting begins.