Re: Interesting tanager

Kay Loughman

Thanks to all of you who commented on the unusual tanager that visited my yard yesterday morning. Several people suggested a hybrid, with various combinations of Western, Summer, and Flame-colored; Western x Summer was mentioned most frequently. I too had considered the likelihood of a hybrid, but now have another possibility:

My husband, a retired geneticist, suggests the somewhat mottled plumage is likely the result of genetic mosaicism, similar to the process that created the showy leucistic American Robin that showed up in our neighborhood in March 2014: <> and similar (but NOT identical) to the process that creates genetic anomalies (e.g calico cats) in mammals.

A genetic mosaic would allow for those widely-distributed orange feathers (where we might expect yellow) without the need for us to determine family history.

Kay Loughman

Kay Loughman wrote on 9/6/2016 3:45 PM:

An unusual tanager spent two minutes (only) visiting one of the
coffeeberry plants in our yard today. I was set to call it Western
male, first fall, until I looked more closely at the photos I took.
The things I noticed were that the orangish feathers were scattered
well down the chest and onto the belly, flanks and upper tail
coverts. Also, the upper wing bar was decidedly orange. I know
tanagers can vary quite a bit in their coloration, but this is outside
my experience.


This part of my north-facing hillside property barely gets any sun
after mid-August, so the photos are shadier than I'd like. (The upside
is that it takes the coffeeberries longer to ripen, so they're often
available to the birds later than plants in sunnier parts of the yard.)

Comments appreciated.

Kay Loughman
in the hills on the Berkeley/Oakland border

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