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There are more Grosbeaks? Yes, and here they are.

Updated on May 18, 2016

Grosbeaks family tree

The Phylogenic tree is one way of making a bird family tree.
The Phylogenic tree is one way of making a bird family tree. | Source

Their family tree:

Let me start by telling you that they are in the ‘Family Emberizidae’. This is ‘Subfamily Cardinalinae’, ‘Cardinals, Grosbeaks and Allies’.

There are 39 species in this family, chiefly in tropical America. Only ten of those species appear to be in North America. The birds in this family basically have bright colors and conical bills which they use to crush seeds. Instead of migrating, some of these birds stay all year and are very territorial, but not all of them do that. There are some which go to the tropics as soon as the season for breeding is over.

The only ones in this group which I will be describing now are the grosbeaks. The five here will be the Black-headed Grosbeak, the Rose-breasted Grosbeak, the Yellow Grosbeak, the Blue Grosbeak and the Crimson-collared Grosbeak. (The other two: the Pine Grosbeak and the Evening Grosbeak are with the finch family.)

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Rose-breasted grosbeak, male.Rose-breasted grosbeak, female.
Rose-breasted grosbeak, male.
Rose-breasted grosbeak, male. | Source
Rose-breasted grosbeak, female.
Rose-breasted grosbeak, female. | Source

The Rose–breasted Grosbeak:

We will begin with the Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

They can be from between 7” to almost 8.5” in length (18-21 cm.), that is about the same size as a starling. They have very thick bills which are pale, you could say sort of pinkish-white.

From wingtip to wingtip is basically from 7" to almost 8.5" (29 - 33 cm.), and they weigh in at about 1.5 to almost 2 ounces (39 - 49 g.).

If you are wondering what they look like:

The male is generally black and white all over except for a rose-red patch on the breast and the under wings. It has a long tail which is slightly notched and also the tail patches which are white.

The female is not like the male. The female has upperparts which are brown streaked, and when you look at its underparts you notice that they are buff streaked. It also has wing linings which are yellow. They also have a white eyebrow.

Range Map - 2016

The rose-breasted grosbeak breeds from northeastern British Columbia east to Nova Scotia and south to North Dakota, Oklahoma, Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia, and New Jersey. The rose-breasted grosbeak is a neotropical migrator and winters from souther
The rose-breasted grosbeak breeds from northeastern British Columbia east to Nova Scotia and south to North Dakota, Oklahoma, Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia, and New Jersey. The rose-breasted grosbeak is a neotropical migrator and winters from souther | Source

The habitat and the range of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak:

Habitat -

They like to live in woodlands which are moist and near open fields. Usually with shrubs in them which are tall. They also like orchards but normally the orchards have to be old, plus overgrown.

Range –

You can find this grosbeak generally from northeastern British Columbia, southern Manitoba and Nova Scotia. From there they can go south to southern Alberta to southern North Dakota, central Oklahoma and east to New Jersey. They can be found in mountains as far south as northern Georgia.

In the winter they can be found from central to northern South America.

[Range map in photo caption [this link is showing the only the old range]: Approximate range/distribution map of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus). In keeping withWikiProject: Birds guidelines, yellow indicates the summer-only range, blue indicates the winter-only range, green indicates the year-round range, and orange indicates areas through which the species will pass during migratory activity.]

Nesting and Feeding

Click thumbnail to view full-size
 Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) feeding young in nestTwo Rose-breasted Grosbeaks at feederFemale feeding on Muntingia calabura (Capulín) fruits.
 Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) feeding young in nest
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) feeding young in nest | Source
Two Rose-breasted Grosbeaks at feeder
Two Rose-breasted Grosbeaks at feeder | Source
Female feeding on Muntingia calabura (Capulín) fruits.
Female feeding on Muntingia calabura (Capulín) fruits. | Source


Nesting -

Normally, in most other birds, only the female builds the nest – occasionally the male. For the Rose-breasted Grosbeak both the male and the female work together. Because of this, plus since they work from dawn to dusk, they usually finish the nest in 4 – 9 days.

What they are building is an open cup which is made of coarse sticks plus twigs, grasses, weed stems, leaves (usually decayed), or maybe straw. After that is done, then it is lined with the following: fine twigs, rootlets or hair. Occasionally you can see the shadow of the eggs through the nest because it is not very strong. The birds have a custom of using forked twigs.

These twigs may help to keep the poor nest from falling apart.

When the nest is finished being built, the outside usually measures about 3.5” – 9” across and 1.5” – 5” high. The inner cup is about 3” – 6” across and 1” – 3.5” deep.

The female may have assistance from the male in choosing a site for the nest. It is generally in a vertical fork or a crotch of a sapling. Maple, red-berried elder, balsam fir, eastern hemlock and spruce are also used for nesting plants. They can be in areas which are wet or dry.

Most of the time the nests are placed in forest openings, the edges of fields which are overgrown, old pastures, roads with a lot of shrubs, railroad rights-of-way, gardens, parks or areas which are residential. The way that the male and female each might test the fitness of the site is by settling into the nest and turning around several times.


Feeding –

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak eats many insects, plus wild fruit and seeds during breeding season. In the course of fall migration mostly they eat berries. When they have reached their wintering areas their diet varies between invertebrates and plant material.

Grosbeaks generally use dense foliage and branches to pick out their food. They also hover to catch food and occasionally hawk insects.

Their diet is in two portions: animal and vegetation. The animal portion consists of beetles, bees, ants, sawflies, bugs, butterflies and moths. The vegetarian portion consists of elderberries, blackberries, raspberries, mulberries, juneberries and seeds of smartweed, pigweed, foxtail, milkweed plus sunflower seeds, garden peas, oats, wheat, tree flowers, tree buds and cultivated fruit.

Grosbeaks at feeder

Rose-breasted Grosbeak singing

How they sound, both the song and the call:

The Song –

It is a sweetly whistled song and it is rich, plus it is sung by the male and also the female. The American Robin has a pattern which is slightly similar to the grosbeaks. The song of the grosbeak has been related by many as sweeter and more melodious as the robin’s. The song of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak can usually last up to 6 seconds. It also contains 20 notes or musical tones.

The female is singing while building the nest, while incubating and while brooding. The male frequently sings quietly while sitting in the nest, (my guess is so that he does not disturb the young), and he sings loudly when sitting on higher perches.

The Calls –

They have a short, sharp call which is a penetrating 'chink'. If you listen enough, occasionally you might say that it sounds like a sneaker squeaking on a gym floor. That is their basic call, but when they are alarmed they give harsher, repeated 'squawks'.

Other facts:

Other facts -

  • Rose-breasted Grosbeaks have aggressive behavior and this was looked into by scientists who used live birds and model birds. The models had their rumps and flanks attacked by the live birds. What this suggested to the scientists was that the color white (the rumps and flanks) stirred their aggression more than the color red (such as the breast).
  • It seems that the female is not the only one who watches the nest, the males also take turns on the eggs for several hours per day. The female does it for the rest of the day plus the entire night. They both softly sing to each other when they trade places. (Probably something like, “I will watch the kids until you get back.” “Okay dear. I will not be long. See you shortly.”)
  • There is a record which is held by two males for being the oldest Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. The age was 12 years and 11 months old. One was captured and then released in Vermont in 1984. The other was in Maryland in 1987. Both birds were banded.
  • A couple of other names which are used for this bird are: "Cardinal a´ poitrine rose" (French) and "Picogrueso pechirrosado" (Spanish).

Conservation facts and interesting facts:

Conservation –

Even though they are a common bird in the forest and they have a generally a secure population, the Rose-breasted Grosbeak has been in a slight decline since 1966. Although it has basically straighted out in the past ten years. It has been estimated by one site that there are about 4 million of these birds. While 54% of them breed in Canada, 46% breed in the U.S., and 21% winter in Mexico. Unfortunately, they are trapped and sold as pets when they migrate for winter which may cause their population to be hit by an unknown impact.

Here is a little hint of what is coming:

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus ). Male Blue Grosbeak (Passerina caerulea) in Ash, North Carolina, USAPheucticus chrysopeplus  Yellow Grosbeak, also called Mexican Yellow Grosbeak, at Miami Metrozoo.Crimson-collared Grosbeak Rhodothraupis celaeno
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus ).
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus ). | Source
Male Blue Grosbeak (Passerina caerulea) in Ash, North Carolina, USA
Male Blue Grosbeak (Passerina caerulea) in Ash, North Carolina, USA | Source
Pheucticus chrysopeplus  Yellow Grosbeak, also called Mexican Yellow Grosbeak, at Miami Metrozoo.
Pheucticus chrysopeplus Yellow Grosbeak, also called Mexican Yellow Grosbeak, at Miami Metrozoo. | Source
Crimson-collared Grosbeak Rhodothraupis celaeno
Crimson-collared Grosbeak Rhodothraupis celaeno | Source

The grosbeaks to come:

These are the four grosbeaks which remain on the list.

Choosing your favorite by sight:

Just by looking at them, which of these would you choose?

See results

© 2013 The Examiner-1


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    • The Examiner-1 profile imageAUTHOR

      The Examiner-1 

      4 years ago

      Aaah. I did not look at the pet birds yet. I have been study and watching the wild birds for years. I occasionally used to have chickadees and titmice eat out of my hand.


    • bethperry profile image

      Beth Perry 

      4 years ago from Tennesee

      Kevin, yes they are - a society finch and a zebra finch :)

      I'll look for your finch Hub, too!

    • The Examiner-1 profile imageAUTHOR

      The Examiner-1 

      4 years ago

      Hi Beth,

      That was just the first grosbeak, I am nearly going to publish about a second one. I am beginning the ones in the cardinal family. I published a Hub a while ago about two others which are finches.

      By "my finches next me" - did you mean pet finches?

      Thank you for stopping by and for the compliments. :-)


    • bethperry profile image

      Beth Perry 

      4 years ago from Tennesee

      Kevin, what an interesting Hub! I also loved hearing the video of the Rose-breasted call (my finches are watching from beside me, and they took note, too!) Thank you for sharing!

    • The Examiner-1 profile imageAUTHOR

      The Examiner-1 

      4 years ago

      Thank you susi10. I appreciate how you felt about the Hub. :-) I congratulate you on having seen all of these birds before! I wish that I could take credit for the photos but I just searched for the ones which looked the best. I am not sure my favorite is the Blue Grosbeak or the Crimson-collared Grosbeak. Happy New Year to you too!


      P.S. - the Black-headed Grosbeak is the next one in the series which I am working on right now. ;)

    • susi10 profile image

      Susan W 

      4 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      Hi Kevin,

      This is a great hub you have here, I like the way you explained everything there is to know about grosbeaks from what they look like to their calls. I have learned a lot from this hub. I have seen these birds before but I never knew their names, now I do! The pictures are beautiful, I especially like the Black Headed Grosbeck. Shared, interesting and beautiful. Happy New Year To You! :)

    • The Examiner-1 profile imageAUTHOR

      The Examiner-1 

      4 years ago

      Thank you Deb. I try to do my best, unfortunately though I did not take the photos like you. That is the first in the group of remaining grosbeaks. I hope that I do a good job on those too.

      Have a Happy New Years!


    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      These are all beautiful birds. I never realized that there were so many varieties. Nice work!

    • The Examiner-1 profile imageAUTHOR

      The Examiner-1 

      4 years ago

      Good for you. I do not know whether I have any in my yard. My (only) feeder fell down.

      I already wrote about the other two in the finch family. Now I am writing about the five related to the Cardinal family.

      Thank you for stopping by to read my Hub and leave your comments. I hope that you and your family have a Happy New Year and your resolutions all (or most) come true!


    • CraftytotheCore profile image


      4 years ago

      We have grosbeak's in our yard during the summer, but I had no idea there were so many kinds. They are lovely birds. I love watching them feeding outside of our kitchen window.

    • The Examiner-1 profile imageAUTHOR

      The Examiner-1 

      4 years ago

      Good for you Pearl. They have some lovely colors. I guess they would practically disappear in a red & white rose bush. :-) I mentioned that they have aggressive behavior, perhaps that is why they let you take their photos. Keep an eye out for the related grosbeaks.

      Thank you for your comments. I hope that you and everyone have a Happy New Year!

    • grandmapearl profile image

      Connie Smith 

      4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Kevin, the Rose-Breasted Grosbeak is one of my all-time favorite birds. I usually have at least 3 pairs that come to the feeders in late spring. One time I was walking close to my feeders and happened to have my camera in hand. I was able to get some good up-close pictures of a very young male grosbeak at the feeder. I approached very slowly and quietly, and he stayed there the whole time letting me snap several pictures.

      I look forward to their colorful presence every year. Excellent information on a gorgeous backyard bird ;) Pearl


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