red, white and blue berries --
summer tanagers peck open
the sweet juicy fruit
A pair of summer tanagers are feasting on our bumper crop of blueberries. Like me, they choose only the ripe blue orbs, not the unripe pale green or not-quite-ripe red ones. I pop the whole berry in my mouth but the tanagers peck each berry open, extract the juicy pulp and leave the skin hanging on the branch. The tanagers are also insect eaters, specializing in the stinging variety. I'm happy to trade berries for wasps, since the pair are doing a great job of keeping these insects away from our house. Today I spotted the all-gray female in one of the blueberry bushes but she flew off before I could get a photo.
I read that red birds get their carnelian color from the carotenoids in berries. Someone did an experiment in which they fed a goldfinch red berries and it turned orange, while a cardinal on a diet of yellow berries turned pale. Now I wonder, why is it that the male summer tanager keeps his scarlet feathers when he eats blueberries, while the female remains gray when she eats red goumi berries?