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A land manager's guide to conserving habitat for forest birds in ...

A land manager's guide to conserving habitat for forest birds in ...

Scarlet Tanager Piranga

Scarlet Tanager Piranga olivacea Female Scarlet Tanager — Photo: Mark Peck on surfaces of leaves, flowers, fruit, and bark. Scarlet Tanagers often catch flying insects in the air. Male Scarlet Tanager — Photo: Jeff Nadler Identification (16–17 centimetres) The vivid black and red male Scarlet Tanager is one of our most striking birds. Despite this brilliant colouration, it often goes unnoticed because of its unobtrusive, secretive behaviour and preference for the forest canopy. Quite unlike the males, females are olive-green above and dull yellow below with dark wings and tail. Conservation Status The Scarlet Tanager is a bird of the forest interior, whose breeding range corresponds closely to the boundaries of the eastern deciduous forest zone, stretching from extreme southern Canada to the northern Gulf States. Long-term continental populations appear to be rather stable, although significant declines have occurred in certain regions, particularly in areas of intensive agriculture. Breeding Biology Scarlet Tanagers breed in mature deciduous or mixed forests, preferring those dominated by large trees, often those with white pine present. Females build thin, saucer-shaped nests in the canopy of large diameter trees, often in the fork of a horizontal limb, in a leaf cluster. Nests tend to be shallow, sometimes flimsy, with eggs visible through the bottom. Birds are single-brooded, breeding from late May to early July in Ontario. Clutches consist of three to five eggs that are pale bluish in colour with fine speckles of red or purplish brown. Diet During the breeding season, the tanager is mostly insectivorous, eating a wide variety of flying and nonflying insects, various insect larvae, and spiders. When insects are not plentiful, it will take earthworms, buds and berries. It primarily forages among leaves, twigs and branches in the mid-canopy, capturing insects Management Guidelines Scarlet Tanagers do best in areas that have low levels of forest fragmentation and larger patches of forest. It fairs poorly in fragmented regions due to poor nest survival and high rates of parasitism by cowbirds. Scarlet Tanagers seem tolerant of a variety of silviculture disturbances in large forest tracts, but prefer mature tracts, particularly those with pine and/or oak. Strategies to maintain habitat for Scarlet Tanagers will hinge on preserving large tracts with large diameter trees. Efforts to reconnect fragments, reduce edge habitat, and maintain pine and oak on the landscape will help conserve local tanager populations. How to Find As a bird of the forest interior that spends much of its time in the canopy, your best bet for locating the Scarlet Tanager is to listen for its hoarse, burry song and frequently uttered chip-burrr calls. Where you hear this song, look for a bright red male or greenishyellow female fluttering about in the canopy. Did you know? Photo: Peter Burke • The male courts females by perching below her, stretching out his neck and spreading his wings to show off his scarlet back • The female sings a song that is softer, shorter, and less harsh than the male’s, often in response to the male’s song, or while building a nest. • The response of the Scarlet Tanager to habitat fragmentation varies from place to place. In the heart of its range in the Northeast, it can be found in small forest patches. In the Midwest, similar sized forest patches are not occupied by tanagers. • The song of the Scarlet Tanager has been compared to that of a robin with a sore throat. 130 Bird Species Accounts

Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis Female Northern Cardinal — Photo: Greg Lavaty Diet The cardinal consumes about 30 percent insects and 70 percent fruits, buds, nuts, and seeds. Common plants include the fruits and seeds of wild grape, smartweed, dogwood, sedge, mulberry, sumac, vervain, and tulip tree. Common animal matter foods include spiders, centipedes, flies, ants, snails, butterflies, moths, grasshoppers, katydids, cicadas, crickets, mayflies, and beetles. Management Guidelines The Northern Cardinal is abundant and does not require any special habitat management efforts to ensure its survival. It responds positively to forestry practices that increase shrub cover, including group selection and shelterwood cuts. Male Northern Cardinal — Photo: Greg Lavaty Identification (21–23 centimetres) This common bird is a fixture at backyard feeders throughout the winter. Northern Cardinals have a thick, reddish conical bill and a prominent crest. The male is brilliant red all over with a black eye mask and throat, while females are primarily greyish-tan brown with a reduced mask, and dull orange-red tail, crest, and wings. How to Find It is not hard to find a Northern Cardinal, just take a look in your backyard! This species is a common urban resident and birdfeeder visitor, and sings a loud array of upward and downward slurred whistles. Photo: Mark Peck Conservation Status The Northern Cardinal is abundant throughout much of eastern and central North America, from southern Canada through parts of the Caribbean. It has expanded its range northward over the last 200 years with the clearing of mature forests, human habitation, warming climate, and provisioning at bird feeders. Breeding Bird Survey data indicate that Ontario populations have grown 3.6 percent annually since 1968. Breeding Biology The Northern Cardinal is a resident throughout its range in areas with shrubs and/or small trees. Nests are bulky cups of twigs, stems, leaves, and bark strips built in dense shrubs, trees, or vine tangles. Breeding may begin while there is still snow on the ground. Females lay two to three green to grayish-white eggs with purplishbrown spots, and raise up to three broods per season. Did you know? • Plumage colour is linked to diet quality. Brighter individuals are considered higher-quality mates and provide more parental care than dull males. • Female cardinals sing, often from the nest. Their songs are longer and more complex than that of males, and are believed to be a signal to the male to bring food. • The first record of the Northern Cardinal in Ontario was from Chatham in 1849. The first record in London was in 1915. Its population and breeding range have increased dramatically since then. • Northern Cardinals may remain with their mates on the breeding territory throughout the winter. • The male cardinal fiercely defends its breeding territory from other males. When a male sees its reflection in glass surfaces, it frequently will spend hours fighting the imaginary intruder. Bird Species Accounts 131

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