I had a surprise visitor to my front porch a couple days ago. As I sat and watched hummingbirds, a yellow bird flew toward the hummingbird feeders then darted out of sight when it saw me. Initially, I thought perhaps it was a female Orchard Oriole. I remembered reading that Orioles generally like to drink from hummingbird feeders, so I assumed that is what the bird was after.
However, a little while later when I looked out of my bedroom window, I saw the same yellow bird on the front porch rail, below the hummingbird feeders, eating a yellow jacket. I observed the bird as it suddenly flew up to the feeder and snatched another yellow jacket. I realized it wasn't the sugar water this bird wanted...it was the insects that were drinking the sugar water! I reached for my camera to get a few shots. Because I was behind my dusty bedroom window, the photos aren't that great, but I was happy to get some shots of this beauty...a "new" bird for me :)
I learned that this lovely yellow bird is a female Summer Tanager, a long-distance migrant that spends its summers in the southern U.S. and winters in Mexico and Central and South America. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology web site, Summer Tanagers are bee and wasp experts. They catch these insects in flight and kill them by beating them against a branch. Before eating a bee, the tanager rubs it on the branch to remove the stinger. Summer Tanagers eat larvae, too: first they get rid of the adults, and then they tear open the nest to get the grubs.
The male Summer Tanager is a strawberry-red color, the only completely red bird in North America. I haven't seen one yet, but would love to- gorgeous bird! With fall migration underway, I might just have that opportunity...