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There are more Grosbeaks? Yes, and here they are.
Grosbeaks family tree
Recent Grosbeak family tree
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 GrosbeakClick thumbnail to view full-size
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 habitat and the range of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak:
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.
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 FeedingClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
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
Voice of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak
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 -
- 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:
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
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?
© 2013 The Examiner-1