[Tweeters] early tanagers

Gary Bletsch garybletsch at yahoo.com
Tue Mar 9 08:07:42 PST 2021

Dear Catherine and Tweeters,
March eighth would indeed be a very early date for a Western Tanager, but the species has occurred in Western Washington in every month of the year, according to the tables in the ABA bird-finding guide to Washington; eBird's bar graphs agree.
On the other hand, I am a pretty good ear-birder, and I thought I heard a Western Tanager yesterday, in Rockport. It turned out to be an American Robin singing an oddly coarse-sounding song. Roger Tory Peterson once wrote that the Scarlet Tanager sounds "like a Robin with a sore throat."
That got me to pondering for the umpteenth time a question of mimicry. There are quite a few birds in North America that sing what are called "robin-like songs." Black-headed and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and Scarlet, Summer, Hepatic, and Western Tanagers, all come to mind. I've always assumed that those birds were "copying" the song of the American Robin, but of course there is no way for me to test such an hypothesis! It would take an elegant scientific mind to come up with an experiment to do so.
Yours truly,
Gary Bletsch
On Monday, March 8, 2021, 06:07:12 PM PST, Catherine Alexander <cma at squeakyfiddle.com> wrote:

I know that this is impossibly early, but this afternoon I heard either a Western Tanager singing or a person hiding in a tree playing a recording of a Western Tanager singing.

Seward Park, north of the amphitheater in the trees along the upper loop road, around 5pm.

Catherine Alexander
Lakewood Neighborhood
South Seattle

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