Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 26 >> Swordfish to Tanning >> Tanager

Tanager

species, birds and black

TANAGER, a family of perching birds (Ta.nagridcr), allied to the finches. They are distinguished by the bill being of triangular shape at its base and arched toward its tip. The upper mandible may exhibit a notched appear ance; the wings are pointed and of moderate length; the feet short and slender. The hinder toe t.s strong and elongated, all the digits being provided with strong curved claws. These birds chiefly found in the tropical parts of Amer ica and include several genera and many species, all of brilliant coloration and usually capable of fine singing. One of the best known is the organist tanager (Euphonia mustca) of the West Indies, so named from the pleasing and vaned nature of the song. The Antilles possess sev eral peculiar species. Three or four species of the genus Pyranga are regular migrants to the United States in summer, one, the scarlet tanager, or black-winged fire-bird (P. rubra), being familiar at that season throughout all the Northern and Eastern States and southern Can ada. It is of less size than the robin, and a bird of the woods and orchards rather than of open lands, and almost never seen upon the ground.

The male is everywbere rich scarlet except his wings and tail which are pure black. This full plumage is not acquired, however, until the fourth year, the young males being dull yellow, more or less reddened according to age; while the females are always clothed in an inconspicu ous dress of mottled green. The song of the male is loud, vigorous and merry, and is heard later in the summer than that of most other birds. The nest is a rather nide structure placed in a tree, and containing greenish, brown-spotted eggs. In the Southern States another species, the summer redbird (P. cestiva) is of more pink ish and glowing hue than the scarlet tanager, and lacks the black on wings and tail; it has a Western variety (Coopers). The males of another Western species, the Louisiana tanager (P. ludoviciana) are yellow and black, with the head red; and a fourth darker species (P. hepatica) is mainly Mexican. Consult Ridgway, 'Birds of North and Middle America,) Part II, (Washington 1902), and standard books on American birds.