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Western tanager        Images © Mark A. Chappell

A breeding bird in high mountain conifer forests, the western tanager can be seen at lower elevations during migration.   One of these bright spring males was defending territory near Shell Falls in northeastern Wyoming.   Others -- including the females -- were feeding in the cottonwood trees bordering the stream at Big Morongo Reserve in the California desert, and on lower Lee Vining Creek, near Mono Lake in Mono County, California.   Many of the latter images show males that are not quite in full breeding plumage, with the red facial color not complete; one bird (near the bottom of the page) had a more intensely red face than any I've seen.   This page shows spring migrants feeding in Mexican bird-of-paradise and other plants at a small highway rest area in the middle of the southern California desert.

  • Canon 10D, 1D4, or 7D2; 500mm f4 IS with 2X converter or 800 mm IS lens with 1.4X converter; fill-in flash (2003, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017)