Discover The Summer Tanager: A Captivating Red Bird in Ohio

red birds in ohio

If you’re like me, you’ve probably found yourself marveling at the vibrant red birds flitting around Ohio’s lush landscapes. These crimson creatures are not only a sight to behold, but they’re also an integral part of Ohio’s ecosystem.

From the Northern Cardinal, Ohio’s state bird, to the elusive Red-headed Woodpecker, these fiery-feathered friends add a splash of color to our backyards. We’ll delve into the fascinating world of Ohio’s red birds, exploring their unique characteristics, habitats, and behaviors.

So, grab your binoculars and join me as we embark on this avian adventure. Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher or a casual nature enthusiast, there’s something to learn and appreciate about these stunning red birds of Ohio.

Northern Cardinal: Ohio’s State Bird

No discussion about red birds in Ohio can be complete without a special mention of the Northern Cardinal. My personal favorite, it just so happens to be the state bird of Ohio, as well as six other states.

A Sight to Behold

Don’t mistake it for an average feathered friend. The Northern Cardinal, with its rich crimson plumage and a charismatic crest, demands attention. Male cardinals are strikingly vibrant, their iconic red color easily setting them apart in Ohio’s diverse avian community. On the other hand, females flaunt a more subtle, yet equally captivating, blend of warm red and soft grey tones.

Unique Characteristics

The Northern Cardinals are not only about beauty. They’re gifted singers too, surprising many with their delightful, melodic tunes. Even more intriguing is that both males and females sing, which is a rarity in the bird world.

Furthermore, they’re exceptionally territorial, especially during breeding season.

Behaviors and Habitat

A closer look at their behavior reveals they’re year-round residents of Ohio, adding a dash of color to the state’s landscape even in the gripping winter months. They’re most commonly seen in backyards, gardens, woodlands, and shrublands, relishing in a diet of seeds, grains, fruits, and insects.

Moreover, Northern Cardinals also spread the seeds of the plants they feed on, playing a crucial role in maintaining Ohio’s biodiversity.

Their distinctive traits and contributions to the ecosystem make the Northern Cardinals an indispensable part of Ohio’s fauna. Their sight and song bring joy and vibrancy not only to my birdwatching endeavors but also to those of all Ohio residents and nature enthusiasts. The Northern Cardinal isn’t just Ohio’s state bird, it’s also a symbol of the state’s thriving biodiversity and natural charm.

Red-headed Woodpecker: The Elusive Beauty

Venturing out further into the fascinating realm of Ohio’s red birds, we meet the Red-headed Woodpecker. Now, I’ll be honest with you, this bird is relatively elusive compared to the Northern Cardinal. But trust me, spotting one is an experience worth the wait.

The Red-headed Woodpecker strikes a stunning contrast in Ohio’s tree canopies with its bold mix of colors. This bird sports an entirely red head, which is a rarity among woodpeckers. Its all-black tail and large white patches on its wings set it apart from the rest of the crowd. In flight, their wing pattern looks like big flashing lights, a spectacle that never fails to captivate observers.

Not just pretty feathers, these woodpeckers also play a crucial role in Ohio’s ecosystem. Similar to Northern Cardinals, they contribute to seed distribution, assisting in the reproduction of many tree species. Their diet is not limited to insects and seeds though; they’re also known to snatch up small rodents and cached food from other birds. By preying on harmful insect species, they help keep the bug population in check, which is a boon for Ohio’s forests.

Their presence in Ohio is a bit cyclical as they tend to move around in search of the most abundant food sources. This means their population in Ohio fluctuates somewhat. They are most abundant in summers during the nesting season when males can be spotted edging out rivals in high-speed chases.

The Red-headed Woodpecker’s indispensable role in the ecosystem and its splendid vibrant appearance indeed ups the ante for Ohio’s avian diversity. Catching a glimpse of this evasive beauty within the state’s forests undoubtedly enhances the thrill of bird-watching in Ohio. And who can deny, it simply enriches our bond with nature.

Scarlet Tanager: A Vibrant Visitor

Moving on from the elusive Red-headed Woodpecker, let’s focus on another stunning species in Ohio – the Scarlet Tanager. This bird stands out with its illuminating, almost flashy, red body against the green backdrop of Ohio’s woodlands.

The Scarlet Tanager, primarily a summer bird in Ohio, is known for its striking color contrast. The males are a vivid red with black wings while the females and juveniles display a more demure yellow-green shade. This quite remarkable shift in color makes these tanagers an intriguing subject for birdwatchers and nature lovers alike.

Here’s what sets them apart:

  • Migration: These birds earn miles! You’ll predominantly spot the Scarlet Tanager in Ohio between May and September. After breeding, they’re off to South America, returning in the spring.
  • Diet: It’s an insectivore, preying mostly on wasps, bees, beetles, and other flying bugs. However, if insects are sparse, it’ll shift to fruits and berries.
  • Ecosystem Role: Just like our previous friend, the Red-headed Woodpecker, tanagers are instrumental in managing insect populations, ultimately contributing to the health of the forests.

Observing these unique traits unravel in the lush green forests and parks during my walks has only amplified my appreciation of Ohio’s rich bird diversity.

Still on the subject, there’s something else just as fascinating as observing these birds – capturing their exquisite images. Be it the Scarlet Tanager, the Northern Cardinal, or the Red-headed Woodpecker, these red bird gems of Ohio make for captivating photography subjects. So, fellow birdwatchers, don’t forget your camera during your next birding escapade.

Ohio’s bird-watching experience is undoubtedly enhanced by the appearance of these Scarlet Tanagers, their vibrant hues contributing to the state’s remarkable avian diversity. Like the intriguing patterns of arrivals, departures, and diets of these birds, there’s always more to discover in Ohio’s bird kingdom.

Summer Tanager: The Songbird of Ohio

Among Ohio’s rich birdlife is the Summer Tanager. This songbird is an absolute delight, both for its vibrant coloration and the sweet melody it brings to the forest. The Summer Tanager, staying true to its name, makes its appearance in Ohio during the summer months.

Catching a glimpse of the Summer Tanager is nothing short of a visual treat. The males, in their breeding plumage, wear a fiery red all over, carrying the essence of summer amidst the green woodlands of Ohio. On the other hand, females and younger birds show off a more understated yet elegant shade of yellow. They’re often found in the middle or high canopies of forests, staying hidden in the foliage.

The Ohio forests resonate with the melody of the Summer Tanagers. Their song is a series of sweet, musical phrases, almost reminiscent of an American Robin establishing territorial claims or wooing a mate. I’ve can’t count the times I’ve been awed by their captivating calls reverberating through Ohio’s woodlands.

However, these tanagers are more than just a visual and auditory delight. They play a key role in managing insect populations by feeding on bees and wasps. Their unique method of catching their prey by striking and rubbing the insect on a branch to remove the stinger is nothing less than remarkable.

If you’re lucky, you might get to witness a Summer Tanager in migration. These birds embark on an impressive journey from North America to Mexico, Central America, and South America after their breeding season. They use the stars, the sun, and Earth’s magnetic field to navigate their waypoints. Their sheer resilience in such an arduous journey is truly a testament to their strength.

Given their stunning coloration, enchanting song, insect regulation, and interesting migration patterns, the Summer Tanager is certainly deserving of the title, “The Songbird of Ohio“. As we move forward with our exploration of Ohio’s avian richness, let’s keep our eyes open for other splendid sightings in the realm of Ohio’s birdlife. The journey continues…


It’s clear that the Summer Tanager is a true gem of Ohio’s birdlife. Its vibrant red hue, melodious calls, and incredible hunting techniques make it a standout among the state’s avian population. Not only does it add color and music to our forests, but it also plays an important role in controlling insect populations. The Tanager’s migration journey is a testament to its resilience and navigational skills. So, when you’re bird-watching in Ohio, keep an eye out for this red songbird. Its beauty and ecological significance make it a must-see, rightfully earning it the title “The Songbird of Ohio”. As we appreciate these red birds, let’s also remember to protect their habitats for future generations to enjoy.


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