Summer Tanagers nesting in Lebanon County, PA

Chad Kauffman, Wayne Laubscher, and I made a quick stop at Middle Creek WMA this morning to try and find the breeding Dickcissel and Blue Grosbeaks there. We were quickly able to find both of our target birds and even hear them singing. After that we made the quick jump over to Aspen Lane near Mt Gretna in Lebanon County to try and find the nesting Summer Tanagers that were found there recently. Summer Tanagers are rare breeders in the southwest and southeast corners of the state. During the first PA Breeding Bird Atlas, four ‘confirmed’ breeding Summer Tanagers were found in Greene County but on the 2nd atlas, only one nest was confirmed and it was in Chester County.

Within 15 minutes of arriving, we spotted the male tanager which flew in and dropped some food off at the nest. A few minutes later the female flew in to the nest and perched near it for a few minutes. The three of us stayed for a little over an hour and were able to see both adults multiple times as well as two nestlings. Besides that it is very rare for a pair of Summer Tanagers to be nesting in PA, it is interesting that the male is a first spring bird, so its plumage is mottled red and yellow. The female is also unique in that it is a very pinkish-orange color. Eastern female Summer Tanagers are typically more of a yellow color but are quite variable. It was very difficult to photograph the birds, but luckily the female bird perched out in the open momentarily and let me get the photo below. The second photo shows the mottled look of the immature male – unfortunately I was not able to really get any good photos of the male. Also, just for the heck of it, the third photo shows the Blue Grosbeak we saw at Middle Creek.

Summer Tanager – female near Mt Gretna, PA (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Summer Tanager – Unfortunately this is my best photo of the male, note the mottled orange and yellow plumage. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Blue Grosbeak – male with a praying mantis at Middle Creek WMA (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)