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Summer tanager makes rare visit to western Massachusetts

A summer tanager visits a bird feeder in Sunderland, Massachusetts.
Scott Surner
A summer tanager visits a bird feeder in Sunderland, Massachusetts.

A couple of birds not usually seen in Massachusetts showed up in recent days. A sea eagle was spotted last week in Dighton Rock State Park on the Taunton River. In western Massachusetts, a summer tanager has been seen in Sunderland.

Unlike the scarlet tanager, which breeds in New England in the warmer months, the summer tanager is rarely seen in this region. It breeds south and west of here and migrates to Central and South America for the winter.

According to the Cornell Lab or Ornithology, the males are the only completely red bird in North America. The female is mostly yellow.

Scott Surner, a birder from Belchertown, said this was a young bird and it wasn't clear from the feathers yet whether it's male or female.

"It's kind of a yellowy-green, little hints of orange in there," Surner said. "It's a noticeable bird when you see it. It's not something you would normally see at your feeding station."

Young birds without a lot of experience migrating are more likely to get off track, which may explain why it traveled to western Massachusetts.

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.
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