Tanagers and Chats, Arizona Style

Birdseed is a luxury expense I can’t afford, but I’ve found ways to enjoy having birds in the yard that are inexpensive and attract a wider variety than housefinches and sparrows, who will chow down a bag of birdseed in days. I buy marked-down fruit, and suet is on sale everywhere now. I get free bread from the senior center (which we eat too of course) but it is often already stale (they receive unsold bread from the supermarket). The birds love it and I love them.

Male western tanager at the oranges

Male western tanager with piece of bread

Male western tanager. You can see they have different shapes, which seems odd to me.

Male western tanager showing his little butt

What? I'm not fat, I'm fluffy!

Male western tanager---look how slender this one is.

A treeful of tanagers!

Time to replace this orange half.

Tanagers always come with their mates: female western tanager.

After the birds have taken a bit of fruit or suet, they rub their beaks back and forth on a branch or other surface.

Female western tanager. Female creatures are usually less colorful than the males, this helps camouflage them when they have babies. But they are just as beautiful.

Yellow-breasted chat, the largest of the warblers.

Yellow-breasted chat, the male and female look very similar.

Yellow-breasted chat

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24 responses to “Tanagers and Chats, Arizona Style

  1. These are beautiful! … I’ll be following you!
    …ps…Thanks!

  2. Beautiful!

  3. What makes me sick...

    Great bird pix!

    • Thanks! My computer is next to a window and they make it hard to concentrate, I can’t take my eyes off them for more than a few minutes at a time! But do I shut the shade? Nooooo.

  4. Seems like a good way to recycle food, fruit, etc. that is no longer fit for human consumption. What a great idea. Another idea is to hand collect native seeds from surrounding fields and field edges. Hang out and see what the birds are eating. In areas where this seed or fruit is plentiful harvest some and put it in your yard. Some can be dried and kept for winter. Keeps the natural cycle alive as well.

    • Hi Bill,
      Since I absolutely cannot stand to see food thrown away, this works out well. Don’t think I have the motivation to collect seeds, but it’s a great idea. They probably eat seeds from some painful prickly desert plant!

  5. I love your photos; you sure have beautiful birds in Arizona. Out here in western Washington we don’t have many colorful birds. There is a little yellow bird, whose name is escaping me at the moment. Otherwise we have pretty well camoflaged species. We do have lots of eagles and hawks though, who are very beatiful, although not with bright colors!

    • Hi Janet, thanks. Maybe you’re seeing a goldfinch? We have a lot of hawks too, so many that I can’t leave our smallest dog out alone because she might get nabbed. I’d love to see an eagle though! Probably not enough water here to support them.

  6. Indigo Spider

    Gorgeous. They are so beautiful in color I would never get any work done with such a joyful distraction to watch.

    Curious, do you have a zoom lens or are you just close enough? You take wonderful pictures, I always look forward to what you will show next. I hate the hot weather but your pictures entice me to consider Arizona living LOL!

    • Hi Indigo, thank you! Sometimes I think I really should move my computer to a dark corner, I’d be so much more productive. But that would take a lot of my joy away, and joy is hard to come by these days.

      I absolutely do use a zoom, 18x, but the reason it works so well is that the birds are in the trees about 12 feet away. If I washed the outside of the window they’d be clearer but it’s a pain in the neck and I haven’t done it recently.

      We’re also lucky that the little house we live in, dumpy though it is, has TREES, and we’ve planted more. It’s a little oasis for the birds, and gives us the privacy we crave.

  7. Great photos!
    I know just how hard it is to get good shots of small birds so I can appreciate these lovely photos.

    • Thank you Trevor, perseverance more than patience, and their close proximity makes it easier. Camera with me all the time. But they seem to have a sense of me about to take a picture and choose that moment to fly away.

      One thing about birds that I wish wasn’t so is their squabbling. I can usually only photograph only one bird at a time because whoever is on the feeder aggressively defends it. Sometimes feathers fly. And sometimes birds fly into the glass, I hate that! Anybody have any solutions for that?

  8. Thanks for sharing the photos of these beautiful birds.. and thrifty ideas for feeding them. I really appreciate that part!

    • Thanks Patti. Having birds in your yard is one of those things that is nonessential but so enjoyable it’s worth a couple bucks a week. I was thinking last night that I’m going to start asking my customers for stale bread or old fruit, starting today. I see so much waste wherever I go, I’ll bet people will start saving stuff for me if I just ask.

  9. I refer to bird pictures, bird feeding and just watching birds as plain old quiet living. Its the quieter side of life we all should find of interest and appealing. Though most people don’t. Thanks for the birdie foodie tips. You and my mother would have much to talk about.
    Enjoyed the images. I think part of me is surprised of the variety of species (feathered) in Arizona. Thank you Teach!

    • Hi Hudson, can’t take my eyes off the really pretty ones. I’m surprised myself how many exotic bird there are here, but you do have to lure them with what they like to eat!

  10. These are gorgeous (I’m addicted to birds). Could the skinny one be holding itself in? Sometimes birds look fat or thin when in fact they’re just plumping themselves out or holding themselves in for survival reasons.

    • Hi Val, yes I see sometimes the birds feathers are all fluffed out. But most of those tanagers are the slender type, so to see (what looks like) a plump one is always surprising. Could just be an illusion—look at me, I’m fierce! Thanks for commenting.

  11. Ha! What a gorgeous bird!I keep trying to get good shots of my local birds, but I really dont have a camera other than the one on my phone. Ah well! This “couple” is delightful! Maybe the fat one hasn’t had his daily bowel movement, eh? haha Watch out!

  12. Ha ha Barb, sometimes they do sit there on the edge of the feeder and let a big one go! It’s a mess out there but when the rains come it will wash it all away.

  13. Your photos are beautiful, and the colors…wow. All the pictures are great but my favorites are the first and the cute ‘butt’ shot. You are so kind to the animals and birds and definitely ingenious at feeding them!

    • Hi Char, thank you! The butt shot is my favorite pic too. Birds are so adorable and after a while you can actually tell some of the same species apart by the way they act and look. But I hate the squabbling! Do you have feeders?

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