Opinion Column

Possible sighting of summer tanager in Pembroke, a very rare bird for this region

Ken Hooles

By Ken Hooles, Daily Observer

Male and female summer tanager

Male and female summer tanager

On Sept. 10, Mark Dojczman of Pembroke located a possible female Summer Tanager near Water Street and the entrance to Algonquin College parking lot. The last time one of these birds was located in our area was about 10-15 years ago in Deep River. That bird was a male juvenile Summer Tanager.


The Summer Tanager (Pirange rubra) is the most common North American Tanager in its range across eastern and southern United States. In Ontario, it is quite scarce and is considered a rare bird.

The male Summer Tanager has a brilliant red plumage all over its body with a slight tinge of black on its wings. Our Scarlet Tanager is a darker red and has very prominent black wings. The female of the species, like the one reported, has olive-green upper parts and orange-yellow under parts. It is hard to distinguish her from the female Scarlet Tanager. The first year juvenile male Summer Tanager is a mix of red and yellow greens.

The Summer Tanager is mainly found alone or in pairs. It is normally found near water and bottomland hardwood and riparian forests. It likes to forage for food at the middle level of trees where it picks food off leaves. It also likes to catch wasps and bees while in flight. While the wasp and bees are the Summer Tanager’s favourite food, it also enjoys other insects, grubs, caterpillars, and fruit.

This Tanager has one to two broods per year. The eggs of the Summer Tanager are incubated for 11-12 days by the female. The young leave the nest anywhere from 11-14 days later and are fed by both sexes.

The Summer Tanager is very common in deciduous and mixed conifer forests in the southern United States., but there has been a slight decrease in their numbers in the eastern United States due to habitat loss. It is a nice bird to observe, especially for our area!

Elsewhere on the local scene, the fall migration continues. As predicted with the cooler weather, the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and many of our songbirds have left the area, except for the odd late pocket here and there. Over the past couple of weeks, some of the northern warblers have passed through as well as Swainson’s and Grey-cheeked Thrush. The sparrows are staging in larger numbers and include Swamp, Chipping, Song, White-throated and the odd Lincoln’s Sparrows. Over the next two weeks, expect to see Ruby-crowned Kinglets, White-crowned, Fox Sparrows, and a few early Dark-eyed Juncos. There are also more hawks in the area as well as late kettles of Turkey Vultures making their way south. The bird activity is slowly shifting from the woods to the fields, lakes and rivers. It is a great time for bird watching!

On Sept. 19, Susan Ellis of Allumette Island updated me with the shore bird activity on the beach in front of her home. She has had Semi-palmeated Plovers, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, several Sanderlings, and a Solitary Sandpiper.

Around this same period, Allan Mills observed a Golden Eagle on the river in the east end of town. This is probably the same bird observed by Harry Fick last week and also observed by Trudy List-Radke in the Shanty House area a few weeks ago.

Finally, this is a good time to update you on the rare bird sightings across the province for the month of September. These included Carolina Wren(Carleton Place), Little Gull(Amherstview), Eurasian Widgeon ( Kingston), Whiteface Glossy Ibis (Ottawa), Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Toronto), Red-headed Woodpecker (Windsor), Hudsonian Godwit (Windermere), Fish Crow (Leamington), Long-tailed Jaeger (Hamilton), Sabine`s Gull (Hamilton), Franklin`s Gull (Erieau), Prairie Warbler (Port Welland), Swainson`s Hawk (Alviston), Forester`s Tern (Sandbanks), Eurasian Collared Dove (Long Point), and the best, White Pelicans (Pt. Pelee).

Please call me with your bird sightings at 613-735-4430, or email me at hooles@bell.net. For more information on upcoming nature events and other links to nature, just Google the Pembroke Area Field Naturalists’ website or ‘like’ us on Facebook.  

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