Spring migrants: Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Late April is when we start looking for the arrival of the dashing Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The males arrive earlier, sporting a black tie & tail that flashes white as they flitter around in the hemlocks. Their white cummerbunds sport a rich rose sash that trails off to appear underneath their wings. You’ll find it difficult to photograph them at a feeder without getting seed hulls in the image. They have something of a reputation as “feeder hogs,” using their powerful bills to industriously hull and eat sunflower seed. Fortunately for our sunflower supply, the grosbeaks will soon head north and to higher elevations to breed. 

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (c) Jim Greenway

Passage of the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks heralds approaching autumn

One of our favorite “yard birds” is the Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Their appearance is striking – large birds with crushing bills and a blood-red streak across a snow-white breast framed by ebony wings. They aren’t “resident” birds; instead, they pass through in late spring on the northbound route, and right about…today…on the southbound leg.

“Pics or it didn’t happen!” No, not an ideal image but it’s enough to verify that we had one. The Grosbeak is on the left. On the right is a White Breasted Nuthatch, a rather dapper bird in its own right.

This is a “hatch year” male that we spotted this afternoon. It’s referred to as a “hatch year” bird as it hatched this spring but has not yet molted into its full adult plumage. The “rose” ribbon across the breast distinguishes it from females, which lack it.

We’re crossing our fingers that we get a visit from a flock of Evening Grosbeaks this winter. Evening Grosbeaks are an even bigger and more striking bird that only shows up in certain winters. And when they show up – WOW! – they will empty every bird feeder that has sunflower seeds. They’re referred to as an “irruptive” species in that they leave their boreal forests to stage unpredictable “invasions” of the mid-Atlantic and southeastern U.S. Let’s hope!