What a surprise to have two male Rose-Breasted Grosbeak birds on our bird feeder in the month of May. Then to our amazement we had three females appear! These birds are neo-tropical migrants. They spend the winter months in an area from central Mexico to northern South America. In May, they return to the North American continent and take up residence in the northeastern United States and southern Canada. Their habitat is shrubbery, woodlands, and brushy stream areas adjacent to open fields. The male birds arrive before the females, select a nesting territory, and begin singing to attract a prospective mate.
As well as, the sunflower seeds from our bird feeders, a typical diet for these beautiful birds might include seeds of elms, blossoms of hickory or beech trees, buds of white ash, flowers and fruit. Insects of the forest such as gypsy moths and tent caterpillars are also table fare for Grosbeaks. The Grosbeaks savor crop damaging beetles, locusts, cut worms, chinch bugs and other creepy crawlers. Because of this they are sometimes called the “potato bug bird”.
The Rose Breasted Grosbeak is of the finch species. The male has a black head, back, bright red breast and white rump, sides and belly. The bird’s wings are black with white patches above and red, white and black below. The bird in flight reveals startling pink-red linings on the wings. These birds have a large, stout, pale pink-almost white, conical bill. They have a long slightly notched black tail with white patches.
The female Grosbeak has a buff color breast with heavy brown streaks on the sides, making it seem almost drab compared to the male bird. The only “showy” part of the female is her yellow wing linings, only visible in flight. The male and female birds bear little resemblance to each other. Except for the bill, they can be easily mistaken for two different species. Both male and female birds are about the size of a starling.
The male bird is a proud and devout family man. He helps build the nest of twigs and grasses usually in a small tree or bush five to fifty feet high. The nest appears as a flimsy constructed saucer. He also takes his turn incubating the eggs. The female Grosbeak lays three to five light green eggs with brown spots. Incubation time for the eggs is thirteen to fourteen days. He sits on the nest from morning to afternoon, while the female gets the night shift. After hatching, the baby birds leave the nest in nine to twelve days. The male bird is so happy to be included in the family chores that he even sings while on the bird nest. Both the male and female birds sing; their songs very similar to a robin. Rose Breasted Grosbeaks often sing from the treetops in their loud, clear song. It is richer and a more melodious version of the lengthy sing-song of the robin. The notes are sweeter and they have more slurred whistles.
The Rose Breasted Grosbeak is a favorite bird in Mexico, Central and South America. Here the locals are fond of them and often capture them for pets.
We had not seen a Rose Breasted Grosbeak before and were so happy to have them come to our bird feeders. They have already moved on for their flight to the northeastern states. We hope when the late summer days start to become crisp, these beautiful birds will again visit our bird feeders on their way south for the winter.
The author became interested in birds because of her desire to overcome her bird phobia. Over time many interesting and beautiful birds have come to her yard, bird houses and bird feeders. Visit http://www.birdbedandbreakfast.com for bird houses, bird feeders and more.
Source: Margaret Mauldin