Western Tanager Alert! The Midcoast Birding World is Atwitter!

Sun, 02/21/2021 - 4:15pm

About this blog:

  • Eliza is a freshman in high school. She loves birds, looking for birds, and most everything related to birds. She also plays the piano, is an active Girl Scout, loves gardening, and practices karate. She is very excited for summer vacation! She is also excited that she was elected President of her class! 

I don't think I have ever been this excited about a local bird before! The bird I am referencing is a Western Tanager, first spotted by a local birder in her backyard. It was reported on eBird, and has quickly become a local sensation. The bird, a female, was first spotted on February 17th (checklist linked here, click also for more location details) in group of cedar trees across from a birder’s house. It has been seen every day since then in Camden (near Dooryard Farms and PAWS). The bird has been seen every day from the 17th through the 22nd. The neighborhood is aware of the rarity and is okay with people respectfully looking for the bird. 

Now that you know that the bird is a big deal, you might still be wondering why. First, the name should give you a clue. It is a Western Tanager, and so it is not supposed to be here, in the east. Its regular range ends near the Rocky Mountains, where it is only seen in the summer and during migration. According to The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America: Second Edition, the Western Tanager is a “rare visitor east to Atlantic Coast”. This bird is the first eBird record for a Western Tanager in Knox County. This bird should also not be here because it is too early for migration, so it would be unusual even in its normal range. Wow! This bird is a superstar in the birding world and has defied all odds just to be here. 

You might be wondering where birders all seem to find out about these rare birds. No, we don’t have a bat signal! A few places you might find out about rarities are on eBird Rare Bird Alerts (linked here), Maine Audubon, or on social media on specialized pages or accounts, like MAINE Birds (a private group) or American Birding Association accounts. Personally, I found out about it through eBird Rare Bird Alerts. I went to look for it on the 19th as well as the 20th, but was only able to see it on the 20th, so don’t give up if you don’t see on your first time there! If you show up and there are already birders there, they will help you find the bird or give you tips on where people saw it last. 

I hope you learned something about the Western Tanager that is causing a lot of excitement and are now excited yourself! Happy birding!