appeared in Geotripper last May:
Seasoned birders won't be surprised at the excitement a rank amateur like myself feels the first time he or she sees an interesting bird up close. Western Tanagers (Piranga ludoviciana) are relatively common forest and woodland birds across the western United States and Mexico and I'm sure they are seen often by the experts. I've only been seriously seeking out new species for the last five months (*12 months now*), so I still get to experience the joy of seeing something new and different on a fairly regular basis as I add to the list of observed species.
Brightly colored birds often carry the seeds of their own destruction because their feathers may be in high demand for one reason or another. Looking at the tanager reminded me of the large number of species of Honeycreepers that once existed in the Hawaiian Islands. A few of them are still hanging in there (two out of the original 51 species), but most of the others are extinct or nearly so, in part because Hawaiian royalty centuries ago demanded robes made out of their brightly colored feathers (habitat loss, malaria, and competition with invasive species and predators were major factors as well). The tanagers, with their wide range across all the western states avoided such a fate, but they were for a time considered agricultural pests and were poisoned or shot. They are protected today, and their numbers have grown to where they are a "species of least concern".
It was a privilege to see one up close and personal today.
PS: Mrs. Geotripper took a short video of the same bird...