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Do Tanagers Eat Corn?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Another installment in the Tanager Toddler series. Here we have another immature male scarlet tanager (evidenced by the black feathers coming in on the green immature plumage of his wings) finding his way in the world. Birds learn, in large part, by watching other birds. When an individual sees other birds eating, it will investigate to see if that fare suits it, too, even if the other birds are of another species. This tanager was attracted to a little group of goldfinches eating mixed seed beneath our feeders. It landed on the ground--already a bit aberrant for a bird that normally gleans insects in the treetops--and hopped amongst the lookalike goldfinches in fresh winter plumage.

One of these things is not like the others. One of these things is not the same.Tanagers live on insects and fruit, and are not adapted to eating seed or grain. Nevertheless...

Watching the other birds carefully, it picked up some cracked corn, masticated it, and swallowed. Hmm. Not good, but not horrible, either.

It ate four pieces, occasionally bullying the goldfinches, who were more interested in black oil sunflower seed. And then it flew off.

So the answer to the question: Do tanagers eat corn? has to be: Yes, if it seems like a good idea at the time. I doubt this bird will make a habit of eating corn at feeders, but the knowledge he gained today might come in handy should there be a cold snap next spring. It's all grist for his little mill, grist for ours, too. Here ends, for now, the Birds Eating Weird Things series.


Such interesting insights, always good reading.

I wonce seen a tananger eat the flies off a dead possum. Possum was flat as a flapjack—flies dint care. Bet them things tasted nastay!

Wm Daggett

Hey, hey, hey! I take grate O-fence to the commits made bi BOTB

Bill makes me laugh. Sorry, Possumlady :o)

It's interesting that birds watch each other and follow. Tanager tried it, not sure if it liked it...hmmmm, might be back for more.

No, no, no! I want MORE birds eating weird things. This is a really cool series.

Very nice series, Julie, and I especially enjoyed your insight. I would have been surprised by an insect-eating bird nibbling on corn had you not pointed out the learning experience and the possibility of returning to this kind of food if the situation warrants.

The only times I've seen my Summer Tanager, he was in the feeder cup eating sunflower hearts. How funny to see this one eating corn!

AHA! Thank you Julie! See, I knew that bird at my thistle feeder wasn't a goldfinch. Now, I don't know it was a tanager, but it's good to have photographic evidence of this 'birds gone wild' behavior. Us beginners tend to live and die by the field guide sometimes - even if BOTB says not to. I'm learning.

Oh and might I just mention that the little fellow at the ant spa yesterday was the perfect balm for me after a particularly frantic day of wearing too many hats and finishing nothing. Ahhh, what gorgeous feathers.

My word verification is sackbib...huh.

I love it when birds do something unpredictable....all the more reason to spend hours watching them!

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