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How to Attract Scarlet Tanagers

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how to attract scarlet tanagers

Scarlet tanagers are known for the brilliancy of their plumage and their unique ability to sing. However, this beautiful bird species is scarce, with only six of the two hundred fifty species found in America. But do you know how to attract scarlet tanagers in your backyard? Please see our step-by-step process below.

Step 1: Knowing When to Attract Them

Scarlet tanagers are migratory birds, so it is essential to know their migratory schedule before taking any steps to attract them. However, if you want to see these beautiful birds in your backyard, you will probably see them during migration when they go to their nesting habitat.

Since it is always a very rare sighting, you need to plan if you want to see these beautiful birds. Expect these birds to come in early May. Also, these birds are common in the eastern forests during the spring and summer, but sightings in the backyard will mostly occur during their migration.

During spring time from March to May, you will probably see these birds on forest edges because they will be hunting for food such as insects. Summer sightings for these birds usually happen in June and August with some sticking around until October.

These birds will also likely be moving in lower elevations during the fall. During the fall migration which happens in the early weeks of September, birders like you should start checking these birds closer to your home or even in the backyard as sightings will have a higher chance of happening.

Step 2: Attract Them with Their Favorite Foods

Are you wondering what do scarlet tanagers eat? Traditionally, they are omnivores which means they can eat both insects and seeds. They also like to eat berries in the wild. However, if you want to attract these beautiful birds into your backyard, you will need to prepare a lot of suet, mealworms, grape jelly, and even oranges. Ensure that these bird foods will be in your backyard to lure them into your place.

When a male scarlet tanager returns from spring, they are usually in trouble finding insects. This time of the year is the best chance to attract them as they try to eat different things other than insects. They will visit backyards looking for sugar water, mealworms, grape jelly, and suet.

Other foods that will attract them include fruits such as bananas and sliced watermelon. They also like to eat berries which means planting berry-producing trees and shrubs can also help lure these beautiful and aloof birds.

what do scarlet tanagers eat

Step 3: Make your Backyard Scarlet Tanager-friendly

In general, these migratory birds are very selective when it comes to choosing their nesting sites. So, if your home and your backyard are not located near forest land, it can be difficult to spot their birds.

However, if you live in forests dominated by oaks, you can have a higher probability of luring them. Having shrubs that produce berries in your backyard will definitely help draw them. If you can make your backyard insect-friendly, you will also have a greater chance of attracting scarlet tanagers.

Scarlet tanagers can also be attracted when you plant flowers that they like. Some of the flowers they like include sweet autumn clematis, American bittersweet vine, and goldenrod. Eastern redbud tree and western prairie fringed orchid will likely attract scarlet tanagers.

Step 4: Accurate Installation of Feeders

One way to attract scarlet tanagers is to have the right bird feeder in your backyard. Apparently, scarlet tanagers like brightly-colored feeders, which means you need to have them immediately. These birds can be easily attracted to bright colors, and having these feeders can help.

Installation is also very important for these birds to be attracted to your backyard. Apart from having the right food for the feeder, the location is also very important. When it comes to scarlet tanagers, they like to eat atop of a tree which means having these birdfeeders installed atop an oak tree will undoubtedly help in luring these migratory birds.

Step 5: Providing a Bird Bath in the Backyard

Installing a birdbath in your backyard will also help in attracting scarlet tanagers. One characteristic of these migratory birds is they are easily attracted to water which means having a birdbath will make the birds flock into your backyard.

If you have a birdbath, you also need to have a water source to lure them into your backyard. Installing a dripper or a small fountain will definitely attract them as it creates a sound of trickling water which they like.

Water sources are indeed irresistible to scarlet tanagers but installing it in the right time can also be the key. The timing should be right, especially during the mating season, which usually happens in the month of April and May.

Step 6: Through the Use of a Bird House

Providing shelter can also attract scarlet tanagers into your home. Meaning putting a birdhouse will likely make them want to stay. But the birdhouse you will be using should adapt to what scarlet tanagers need.

There are many artificial birdhouses in the market made for these types of birds. Make sure to have one of them in your backyard. Also, this birdhouse will also provide nesting materials for these beautiful but rare birds. If the birdhouse you use will fit into what these birds need during nesting, then it is likely that they spend some time in your backyard.


Learning how to attract scarlet tanagers will come a long way for you as a birder. These birds usually has very rare sightings and experiencing then roaming around in your backyard will be an excellent feeling, Although difficult to attract, there bright colored plumage and unique sounds is worth the effort you will do to attract them

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