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Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Photo by: 
Rick Jordahl

There is a pretty famous story in the bird world about a concerned citizen in Texas who called the authorities to report that someone in her neighborhood was shooting her birds. Upon further investigation, the birds she was concerned about did not have blood on their chest feathers at all, they were Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.

Male Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are a stunning black and white bird with a brilliant red “V” shaped patch of red on its chest. The females and young birds resemble a large sparrow or female purple finch in color but their very large bills quickly clue you in on their true identity.

Primarily a bird of oak woodlands, they seem to prefer the woodland edge or areas of scattered large trees. In spring, I see them quite often feeding on tree buds but they also eat insects, fruit and seeds. They nest twice a year and the male will often select the nest site and share incubation duties. They will occasionally sing their “hurried robin-like” song while sitting on the nest.

“Rosies” are often one of the true rewards for those who continue to feed birds through May. Your best chance of attracting them to your feeders is by having sunflower seed out during the period of their initial return from their wintering grounds (late April to early May). Rose-breasteds will generally visit feeders for a few days, but once they have moved out onto their nesting territo- ries they rarely come back to the feeder.

When you are out this spring keep your eyes and ears pealed for these great birds. Most often for me it is the sharp metallic “ink” (Sibley says like sneakers on a hardwood floor) call note that alerts me to these birds. Once I get my binoculars on them, it is hard to put them back down again. When you see a “Rosie” for the first time, you will understand why so many people say “where has that bird been all my life”?

By Mark McKellar