The Northern Cardinal and the Scarlet Tanager are two of the most stunningly beautiful birds in Pennsylvania. The Northern Cardinal is a common sight in backyards, parks and along forest edges. Most people have seen one and can readily identify it. Many have not seen a Scarlet Tanager, as they typically dwell in the upper canopy of large forested areas. If they did see one most would only recognize it as a pretty bird.
These two pretty birds exemplify differing habitat requirements of different animals, and why various stages of forest growth, from the young brush stage to mature forest, are desirable. Mature forest cannot possibly provide all animals all of their requirements for food and cover.
Northern Cardinals are common in back yards and their oft bird feeders precisely because their habitat is open and shrubby areas, which includes hedgerows, and backyard ornamental landscaping fits neatly into their requirements.
Scarlet Tanagers migrate great distances, but live and breed in large undisturbed tracts of deciduous and mixed deciduous-evergreen forests of Eastern North America in the spring and summer. To make sightings even more difficult, they reside in the upper canopy. However, it is possible to see one. During migration they move through a broad range of habitats, including backyards.
Owners of private woodland are fortunate and can have both. A variety of habitats mean a large variety of wildlife. Creation of young forest habitat can be very beneficial to wildlife and your viewing pleasure.
Red or Scarlet? Shrubs/brush or mature forest? I’ll take both, please.
Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry foresters are available for assistance to private landowners free of charge. Interested landowners can call 814-472-1862.
Contributed by Christopher Jones, Service Forester with the PA DCNR Bureau of Forestry