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The Mexican Yellow Grosbeak. (It is also Known Simply as Yellow Grosbeak).

Updated on June 12, 2015

Their family tree:

Let me start by telling you that they are in the Family ‘Emberizidae’. This is the Subfamily ‘Cardinalidae’, 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 – usually the larger ones. Instead of migrating some of these birds stay all year and are very territorial but not all of them do. 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 are the grosbeaks. The ones from North America are the Black-headed Grosbeak, the Rose-breasted Grosbeak, the Yellow Grosbeak, the Crimson-collared Grosbeak and the Blue Grosbeak. (The other two: the Pine Grosbeak and the Evening Grosbeak – I have already done because they are with the finch family.)


The Mexican Yellow Grosbeak, being in Mexico, is significantly larger than its relatives in North America - such as the Black-headed Grosbeak and the Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

This grosbeak – both the male and the female – reaches an average of about 8.5 – 9.5 in. long or (21.5 – 24 cm). When flying their wings reach a length of about 14.5 in. or (36.83 cm) from tip to tip. Their weight is an approximate of around 2.2 oz. or (62 g).

Male Mexican Yellow Grosbeak

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Yellow Grosbeak, Pheucticus chrysopeplusSeptember 30, 2007February 6, 2006
Yellow Grosbeak, Pheucticus chrysopeplus
Yellow Grosbeak, Pheucticus chrysopeplus | Source
September 30, 2007
September 30, 2007 | Source
February 6, 2006
February 6, 2006 | Source

The male:

About the only parts of the male which are not a solid yellow – sort of a light lemon or ‘golden-orange’ – are the wings and tail. Some say that the back is “black with yellow mottling’s” but when I see photos of the bird I see a yellow back with a few black patches. They also say that the coverts of the upper parts of the tail are black and that it has white tips. You look at the photos and decide for yourself.

The wings are black with two white wing bars and also various white areas. It goes back and forth between very quick wing beats to pulling its wings against its sides.

The males have a very large head and a beak in relation to the head/beak of the grosbeaks which live north of it. The beak has an upper mandible in black and a lower mandible in gray.

What color did you think that the males back looked like?

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Female Mexican Yellow Grosbeak

Close-up of female  Locality ZooMAT, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas State, Mexico
Close-up of female Locality ZooMAT, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas State, Mexico | Source

The female :

Even though they are similar to the males, the upperparts of the females have more of an olive tint including dark streaks basically on the crown and back. The black on the males has been interchanged with gray (such as the dark gray in the wings) and the white markings – those white markings on the wings are the white base of the primary feathers – they have become smaller. You could say that the female patterns look very much like the female Flame-colored Tanager patterns. The main difference being that the grosbeaks are larger.

 Yellow Grosbeak, also called Mexican Yellow Grosbeak, at Miami Metrozoo.
Yellow Grosbeak, also called Mexican Yellow Grosbeak, at Miami Metrozoo. | Source


The immature pattern resembles most of the female pattern.

Range map of Mexican Yellow Grosbeak

Yellow Grosbeak (Pheucticus chrysopeplus)
Yellow Grosbeak (Pheucticus chrysopeplus) | Source

The habitat and the range of the Yellow Grosbeak:

Habitat –

This bird is sighted in partly open dwellings with shrubbery and undergrowth which basically means that it can either be in a partly open forest or it can be found bushes. The grosbeak desires grove areas in the subtropical and tropical areas and ranges. Other areas that it can be found in are desert areas. It is doubtful that it would be found in a heavy rain or cloud forest because it takes to basically trees, shrubs or the edges of those areas.

Range –

The Yellow Grosbeak presents itself on the Mexican rising ground on the Pacific coast from central Sonora to northwestern Oaxaca and also the southern Chiapas and Guatemala. Its migratory area is Sonora. Infrequent wanderers show up in the United States. When they do it is usually in the summer in southern Arizona; although there have also been random records given from California, Colorado, New Mexico and even as far as Iowa. The few that are seen out of Arizona might mean that they have been kept as pets in cages and have either been set free or escaped.

This grosbeak has a very wide range which can stretch basically to a little over 186 miles.

Nesting and Feeding:

Nesting and nest placement:–

The nest is built in the shape of a cup in a short tree or a bush. Once it is built the nest is usually placed in the chosen tree or bush at medium height.


A nest of a Yellow Grosbeak will have 2 to 5 eggs which the color is pale bluish to greenish, or turquoise, in color. They usually have heavy brown and gray speckling mixed in with that coloring.

The time in which it takes for the eggs to hatch is basically between 11 or 12 days. The fledging period seems to be unknown.

Feeding –

It is a medium-sized, seed-eating bird. Besides seeds – and berries – it also eats insects, mainly larvae and spiders. Some food examples: Safflower, apple slices, suet, millet peanut kernels, fruit

Food which they eat in Mexico is Ficus pertusa, (also known as the Alamos Trees); Trichostigma octandrum (it is a flowering plant in the pokeweed family).

Yellow Grosbeak singing in tree

How they sound, both the song and the call:

The Song –

Although the song can vary, it is a warble with a rich tone. Their song may be similar to the song of the Black-headed Grosbeak – the only difference being that the song of the Mexican Yellow Grosbeak is shorter.

[In video at right of singing grosbeak, simply click on 'Watch on YouTube' after clicking play]

The Calls –

The natural calls of the Mexican Yellow Grosbeak are a kind of ‘metallic’ iehk (ieek), plihk or even a piik. These calls sound like some made by other Pheucticusgrosbeaks. Then there are the soft whoi, hu-oi or hoee. These are calls which are frequently given in flight.

Conservation facts and interesting facts:

Conservation –

The Yellow Grosbeak has been in the Least Concern category. The reason is that the quantity of the population worldwide has not been counted, but they have been mentioned often in areas of their range.

At the moment their total count - which is made by an approximation survey - is supposedly between 50,000 and 499,999. It is uncertain, but their culture may be under the possibility of diminishing due to their continuous loss of habitat.

Interesting facts –

In 1832, a man by the name of Nicholas Aylward Vigors, who was an Irish zoologist and politician, was the first to describe the Yellow Grosbeak.

  • In 1832, a man by the name of Nicholas Aylward Vigors, who was an Irish zoologist and politician, was the first to describe the Yellow Grosbeak.
  • A “gross” of grosbeaks is what grosbeaks are called when they gather together.
  • Foreign names – French: Cardinal juane; German: Gelbkopf-Kernknacker; Spanish: Picogresso Amarillo

It has been regarded as the same species with the P. tibilis (Black-thighed Grosbeak) of Central America and P. chrysogaster (Southern Yellow Grosbeak) of South America.

Which subspecies breeds in which range:

  • In NW Mexico there is a subspecies which is named P. c. dilutus van Rossem, 1934. It also seems to be in: C Sonora, SW Chihuahua and N Sinaloa. Unfortunately where these birds winter is unknown.
  • In W Mexico there is a subspecies which is named P. c. chrysopeplus Vigors, 1832. It also seems to be in: C Sinaloa, W Durango south on a Pacific slope to N Guerrero and SW Puebla.
  • In S Mexico - it seems basically the highlands of the S Chiapas – there is a subspecies which is named P. c. aurantiacus Salvin & Godman, 1891. It is also in Guatemala – which happens to be right next to it.

© 2014 The Examiner-1


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    • The Examiner-1 profile imageAUTHOR

      The Examiner-1 

      4 years ago

      Thank you for your kind words. I hope that you enjoyed it.


    • alkanarula profile image

      Alka Narula 

      4 years ago from INDIA

      You don't find them in India or may be you do but I am not aware of..interesting read.

    • The Examiner-1 profile imageAUTHOR

      The Examiner-1 

      4 years ago

      Thank you Deb. Good for you, let me know if you add this one to your list!


    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Excellent work. I'm not far from their territory, so perhaps I will get to meet the Yellow Grosbeak!

    • The Examiner-1 profile imageAUTHOR

      The Examiner-1 

      4 years ago

      Unfortunately they have never been seen in Texas Peggy. Yes, they are beautiful.


    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I have never seen one but found this interesting. They are beautiful birds!

    • The Examiner-1 profile imageAUTHOR

      The Examiner-1 

      4 years ago

      You are probably one of the lucky ones. I am glad that I solved your mystery. Thanks for checking out the site.


    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 

      4 years ago from California

      I saw one of these beauties last summer and had no idea what it was. Mystery solved. Thanks.

    • The Examiner-1 profile imageAUTHOR

      The Examiner-1 

      4 years ago

      Hello Faith, unless you live out mid-west that is probably why you have not seen them. It was my pleasure to share what I learned. Thank you for the votes and comments. :-)

      Kevin - Let nature be free!

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      4 years ago from southern USA

      I loved reading all about the Yellow Grosbeak and I have never seen one here in the southern USA. They sound lovely and look so lovely and interesting. Thank you for sharing here.

      Great hub. Up and more

    • The Examiner-1 profile imageAUTHOR

      The Examiner-1 

      4 years ago

      When I started out I thought this was going to be in the N.A. range, since it is in my books with the grosbeaks as Yellow Grosbeak.. I am glad to bring it to your attention. I appreciate you taking the time view at it.

    • The Examiner-1 profile imageAUTHOR

      The Examiner-1 

      4 years ago

      There are some birds where the female is as bright as the male - or even brighter. Maybe the heat down south swells their heads,ha,ha. You are welcome, I am glad that you enjoyed it.


    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      4 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Interesting hub about a bird I've never heard of. Thanks for making me aware of them.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image


      4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      The grosbeaks song is beautiful, as well as their coloring! I was surprised to see the females were also so bright, for some reason. I wonder at the reasons the heads and beaks are smaller up north, compared to their southern counterparts? I saw this hub and had to come and look, as the birds are beautiful and learning about them is such a nice thing. It is a good thing I think to think about these creatures, and you really help in that. Thank you!

    • The Examiner-1 profile imageAUTHOR

      The Examiner-1 

      4 years ago

      You are welcome Ruby. I am glad that you liked it. I also enjoy watching and listening to the birds. As you say, they are interesting. Thank you for stopping by.

      Kevin -May the birds fly free!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I am listening to the video as i comment. Sweet sound. I love watching birds. I am an avid bird feeder. I found this interesting. Thank you for sharing


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