Is My Face Red?

The first time I saw Western Tanagers, I was more than a little surprised. Partly, it was the color--a sulfur yellow body, shading to red at the face, passing through almost fluorescent orange along the way. Partly, it's the fact that I was seeing them at all--I'd lived in Wisconsin 27 years without ever seeing their scarlet eastern cousin.

But here they were, a pair of them flitting about the kiln yard at the UO Ceramics studio my first spring here. Far from being shy around us, it was all we could do to keep them from building their nest in one of the burner ports of the salt-glaze kiln. ("Nice location, sturdy structure. And look at the size of that attic!" Yeah, right guys, but the central heating is a little over-powered...)

I was reminded of these handsome birds recently by a backyard birding article in the local newspaper. It said the Western Tanager is very shy, rarely seen around humans, preferring the deep woods. Mine prefer vases, cookie jars, teapots and the occasional painted tile.

Or maybe you just need a really big brick birdhouse...