Planning a vacation somewhere warm? Some of the most beautiful birds in North America may just be coming along with you.
While many migratory birds fly south when the weather turns cold, some still manage to stand out from the crowd with vibrant plumage that seems to fit right in with their tropical winter surroundings.
Here are five extraordinary birds to watch for if you’re visiting tropical locations this winter:
1. Scarlet Tanager
Migration path: Pennsylvania to Brazil
A truly striking species, the males have bright red bodies that contrast with black wings and tails, while the females are more greenish-yellow with slightly darker wings. In the winter months, the Scarlet Tanager can be spotted in tropical rainforests in Brazil and other lowlands east of the Andes mountain range.
2. Western Tanager
Migration path: Oregon to Costa Rica
The male Western Tanager is easy to spot with its orange-red head, bright yellow body, and stark black wings. The females look similar, minus the red on their heads. While spending its summer in the mountains, in winter it heads for the sunny shores of Costa Rica. If you’re lucky enough to also be taking in the sunshine, you can look for these birds in eucalyptus groves or feeding on tropical flowers.
3. Black-throated Blue Warbler
Migration path: Michigan to Jamaica
The females of this species may not turn many heads as they are mostly a duller tan or gray, but the males bring the color with a distinctive blue head, a bright white chest and underside, and a black face. In winter, they tend to reside mostly in thick forests, but can be spotted along fences and in-home gardens where dense shrubs and vines are present. Be careful though, they are known as an aggressive species that will chase away other birds who invade their feeding territory.
4. Wood Thrush
Migration path: Ontario to Mexico
Featuring a reddish-orange head and feathers, the Wood Thrush is perhaps most notable for the distinctive black spots on its chest. In the warm months, they can be found throughout the eastern United States. But in winter, they are most likely to be found in lowland, tropical forests in Mexico and other parts of Central America. Listen for their distinctive machine-gun-like sounds for the best chance to spot these unique birds.
5. Blackpoll Warbler
Migration path: Eastern Canada to northern South America
Perhaps not as colorful as some of the other birds on this list, the Blackpoll Warbler merits inclusion because of the sheer magnitude of its migration. These birds make their summer home in Canada, sometimes north of the Arctic Circle, and travel all the way down to Florida, the West Indies, and northern parts of South America, particularly in areas of high elevation.
You can identify the male Blackpoll Warbler by its black head, white cheek, and black-and-white striping across its body and wings. The female has a streaked head and the stripes on their bodies are more brown than black. Both males and females have distinct orange legs.
Try luring one of these beautiful birds to your feeder
Catching sight of all these magnificent birds is easier with the right incentive. Whether you’re stocking your home feeder or one at your favorite vacation spot, mixes like Supreme Wild Bird Mix and Fruit & Nut High Energy Mix are ideal for attracting these colorful migratory birds.