Monday, May 2, 2011

Rose Breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak.
This time of year we usually see Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, but today we had a visual treat as they were joined by a male and female Blue Grosbeak, taking turns to perch at the feeder one at a time.  As you might guess, the first thing that many people notice is their gross beaks, somewhat like Jimmy Durante with feathers. 

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks males (Pheucticus ludovicianus) are quite distinctive in appearance.  They are black on the upper body and wings, white below with white wing bars, but most distinctive is the rose triangle on their upper breast.  The females are brown with a speckled underbelly.

Blue grosbeak
Blue Grosbeak  (Passerina caerulea) males are dark blue with rusty wing bars.  Females of both species share the size and shape (slightly larger than a finch) and are brown like a sparrow.  The Rose-breasted female has a prominent white eyebrow.

Grosbeaks are members of the cardinal family.  Both Grosbeaks migrate to central America in winter, although Northern Rose-Breasted species may migrate to Southern states.  They all head North in spring to raise their families, unlike the Northern Cardinal which are permanent residents.  Grosbeaks are found in open woods, scrubby fields, and thickets where they forage for insects, seeds and berries.

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak's song is described in as "like that of the robin, only as sung by an opera singer, being mellower and more sweetly melodic."  You can hear the song there and compare it with the Blue Grosbeak here.

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