Attracting Scarlet Tanagers to your Back Yard

May 2, 2010

Scarlet Tanager

In spring and summer if you are fortunate enough to have a tanager in the trees near you, try putting out fruit, such as sliced apple, pieces of bananas, cherries and pieces of raisin. Also try suet and suet mixtures, white bread and butter, peanut hearts and sunflower seeds. The higher you are able to place these foods, the better. This brilliant red and black summer visitor prefers heights. Try a second-story window feeder, though you may have luck with a first-story feeder or a table feeder.

Tanagers eat quietly in one place for a long time. If there is a nest nearby, the parents may carry off food to the young. Later the young may appear along with the parents at a feeder.

You can also try hanging a coconut half to attract tanagers. Turn an eye screw into the interior center of the coconut bottom and attach a hanging chain or cord to the eye screw. When purchasing a coconut, make sure it has a cut in the shell all the way around. This makes it very easy to crack open and to drain the milk. Coconut meat is about 57% fat and birds love fat. When they finish eating the coconut, leave the shell in use as a hanging feeder and fill it with seed or chopped fruit.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Barb June 13, 2010 at 3:37 pm

This is wonderful information about Scarlet Tanagers. Are there any tricks to attracting Indigo Buntings?

Tiffany May 20, 2011 at 12:28 pm

2 days ago I saw my first ever Scarlet Tanager. It was eating an orange at the oriole feeder. I figured it was a one time sighting, but yesterday I saw it multiple times again when I got home from work in the afternoon. It was now feasting on the grape jelly in the Oriole feeder. The feeder is a bit higher than the average level feeder, but not by much. I had to put it on a certain branch that I needed a ladder to get the wire hooked over it, but it is suspended under 2 – 22″ baffles as our squirrels are relentless. One reason it i on a high branch. Maybe if I’m lucky the tanager will stay for more of the season.

Julia May 20, 2011 at 12:46 pm

That must be what attracted one to my yard – the oriole feeder! I am going to go out and put fresh jelly in mine. I had it out there with just sugar water, but will add the jelly and try an orange, too! I’m so excited! The one I saw was immature…he was definitely red, but his wings were still not all the way black, but that was the first time I’ve ever seen one!

T July 6, 2012 at 10:48 pm

A red tanager flies around my friend’s house pecking on windows as if he is trying to get in. He is stunning to look at, but she considers him a pest. Does anyone know why he does this? I could watch him all day.

jeff May 12, 2014 at 6:32 pm

To Brad, who left a question here four years ago about indigo buntings: try scattering white millet on the ground in a spot birds would explore. We have a woody margin with a couple of water sources nearby. I scattered millet along the border to attract native sparrows. About 20 indigo buntings are eating it as I speak.

jennifer May 16, 2014 at 10:10 am

We had an indigo bunting arrive in early May last year (Minnesota), the same day as a scarlet tanager. It was so wonderful! The tanager stayed for a couple of weeks but the indigo bunting remained throughout the summer. He loved finch food and sat in our squirrel proof feeder for long periods of time. He was always the last bird out there in the evenings, eating solo as dusk was approaching. Seemed like he prefered the solitude. Our scarlet tanager arrived yesterday so we are eagerly awaiting our beautiful blue guy! And I will go out today to pick up all those fruity treats for the tanager and maybe he will stick around this summer! Thanks everyone!

James Peet May 16, 2014 at 6:33 pm

I saw my first Scarlet Tanager today at our grape-jelly oriole feeder.

Faith Beatty June 3, 2014 at 10:49 pm

I took my phone out to the patio & played Cornell’s Scarlet Tanager bird call to attract one that my husband saw & he called back within 2 minutes. I finally located him & got to see my very first ever Scarlet Tanager. We’ve been here for 7 years feeding the birds & never saw one.

John Grimaldi July 2, 2014 at 3:50 am

When I was a kid many, many years ago, across the street from my house in New York State there was a heavily wooded area. An oriole and a scarlet tanager made their homes there year after year. What do you suppose attracted them all this time? No one fed them that I know of.

Karen Carano August 9, 2014 at 8:10 am

I live in Hudson River Valley, about 50 miles north of NYC. For the last 2+ weeks a Summer Tanager has been attacking the windows of my house. He is at the garage window, the porch windows, and particularly windows where he can sit on a bench and still hit the window. I love seeing him but am concerned that this behavior has been going on for so long. It appears that as the sun moves he attacks different windows. Right now he is at the front door.

Dawn Coutu August 25, 2014 at 7:00 am

Dear Ms. Carano,

Thank you for taking the time to post your question on the Duncraft Wild Bird Blog.

I’m quite familiar with the Hudson River Valley – I lived just north of you (Chatham area) for many years, and my husband grew up in New Paltz, so we’re in that area pretty often. You get such an amazing variety of birds in that area and I really miss it.

Summer Tanagers are gorgeous birds, and you’re correct that you need to address this problem. The tanager is seeing his own reflection in your windows and is attacking it, thinking it’s a rival for his territory. There is an excellent article about this behavior on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website: Keeping Birds Safe Around Windows if you want to read more about it.

We offer a wide variety of Window Strike Solutions – products that you can apply to your windows to keep the bird from seeing his reflections. Because you need the products on a number of windows but only temporarily, I would recommend a combination of the following products: The Warning Web static cling decal, the Hawk Birdsaver, and the FeatherGuards can be removed at the end of the summer and reapplied again next year if your visitor returns. The Bird B-Gone Diverters would also work, and you could even re-use them for other applications than windows, such as keeping birds away from fruit trees or keeping a woodpecker from drumming on your siding. You can also dab on dots of UV Liquid onto the outside of your windows and just clean them off at the end of the season. If you have an extremely large window that you need to cover and you don’t mind the look, you can drape a piece of BirdX Protective Netting across the window. The idea is to break up the reflection on the window and any of these products should be effective for you.

Please let us know if you have any other questions about this window strike solutions or any of our other products. Our friendly, knowledgeable customer service team is available Monday – Friday from 8:30am-5:00pm ET at 1-800-763-7878.


Heidi Babb
Customer Service Manager
Duncraft Wild Bird Superstore

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