A very attractive bird that can sing melodious songs, the rose-breasted grosbeak can easily be spotted in the woodlands or grasslands in North America. Sometimes, you can even hear the distinctive song before seeing it. During migration, they are easily spotted in the urban areas. The use of black sunflower seeds or berries will instantly attract these birds to your feeder. The male stands out with the rose-red mark on its chest. The female is brown with heavy streaks and resembles a sparrow.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Aves
- Order: Passeriformes
- Family: Cardinalidae
- Genus: Pheucticus
- Species: P. ludovicianus
✦ Length:18 - 22 cm (7.1 - 8.7 in)
✦ Width: 29 - 33 cm (11 - 13 in) across the wings
✦ Weight: 35 - 65 g
The male rose-breasted grosbeak has black upper parts like tail, back, head, and white underparts. It gets its name from the rose-red-colored patch on its chest. It has two prominent white patches on the wings and red streaks.
The female is differently colored compared to the male. The adult female has dark gray-brown upper parts, a white strip along the top of the head, and a darker shade on its tail and wings. The underparts are white with black streaks, and there is a buff tinge seen on the belly. The eye bears a prominent whitish stripe. It has yellowish wings.
Rose-breasted grosbeaks prefer semi-deciduous or deciduous-coniferous forests, swamps, or forests along rivers. They usually avoid dry grasslands or woodlands. They breed in Northeastern America extending till southeastern and central Canada. In the winters, they prefer the southern and central areas.
They are basically insect-eating birds, but also eat seeds or wild fruits. Insects that they usually eat are beetles, bees, ants, sawflies, bugs, butterflies, and moths. Fruits they prefer are elderberries, blackberries, raspberries, mulberries, and juneberries. They also eat seeds of smartweed, pigweed, foxtail, milkweed, sunflower seeds and garden peas, wheat, oats, and tree flowers. They sometimes snag their food from dense foliage or branches. They also fly out to hawk for insects.
The metallic chink is the most common call of the rose-breasted grosbeak. It also makes weep and eek-eek calls in social situations. Its songs are very melodious like American robins, but the notes are faster. They sound like a robin trained in music! The male as well as the female are beautiful songbirds, but the female usually sings a shorter and softer version than the male. Males sing while flying, to woo the female. They also sing together when nesting.
The male incubates the eggs for ⅓rd of the day. When the male and female exchange places, they sing. In fact, the male keeps on singing even when it is incubating the eggs! They love to sing on moonlit nights and prefer singing softly. Males sing to attract females and establish their territories. If a female approaches a male, he snubs her initially, but accepts her as a mate after a couple of days!
Female with offspring in the nest
Rose-breasted grosbeaks are monogamous for a particular breeding season. They build the nest together and share incubation duties. The female usually lays 1-5 bluish-green eggs. They hatch in around 11-14 days and can fly in 9-12 days. The young are ready to breed in a year after hatching.
They migrate to warmer Southern or Central America in winters. They usually fly in large flocks and prefer high woodlands. Sometimes, they stay in thickets, second-level forests, or urban areas.
✦ The name "grosbeak" comes from the French word grosbec, which means "large beak."
✦ A group of grosbeaks are collectively known as a "gross" of grosbeaks.
✦ The nests of these birds are so sparsely constructed that the eggs are visible even from the ground.
✦ The rose-breasted grosbeak sometimes breeds with the black-headed grosbeak in areas where both the birds are scarce. The hybrids can look like either parent.
✦ The maximum lifespan in the wild is 7.3 years.
✦ Rose-breasted grosbeaks have huge tough beaks. They can eat insects with a tough exoskeleton.
Even though the population of this bird is rapidly decreasing, the decline is not so rapid that it is on the brink of being termed 'Vulnerable'. Hence, according to the IUCN, it belongs to the 'Least Concern' category.