Photo courtesy Charles Martinez
This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the rose-breasted grosbeak.
Although we are outside its usual migratory route, recently this bird has stopped at local sunflower feeders to fuel up during its journey north. Rose-breasted grosbeaks are long-distance migrants who leave their winter ranges in Central and South America by the middle of April.
In summer, they breed in deciduous and coniferous forests of the northeastern United States and central Canada. Here they feast on a wide variety of insects which they glean from leaves and branches, spot while hovering or fly out to capture on the wing. In season, they add seeds, wild fruits and berries to their diet.
The “grosbeak” in their name is taken from French and describes the very large, triangular bill these birds possess. Rose-breasted grosbeaks are a part of the family of colorful birds that includes cardinals, buntings and the black-headed grosbeak, a summer resident in our area. Rose-breasted and black-headed grosbeaks share many characteristics and the females are hard to tell apart. The evening grosbeak, a year-round resident here, also has a large bill, but it is more closely related to members of the finch family.
The male rose-breasted grosbeak is black above, white below and is marked with a red chevron on his breast. Females are heavily streaked in brown tones and identified by a white eyebrow and wing bars.
These birds are appreciated for both their beauty and sweet robin-like song. Both sexes sing, even while on the nest. In parts of their winter range, they are commonly trapped and sold as cage birds, a practice prohibited in our country by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.