Photo: G. McElroy/Vireo

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Pheucticus ludovicianus

Conservation status Could be vulnerable to loss of habitat, but current numbers apparently stable.
Family Cardinals
Habitat Deciduous woods, orchards, groves. Breeds mostly in open deciduous woods, sometimes in mixed woods, favoring edges or openings with combination of shrubs and tall trees rather than unbroken forest. In migration, may occur in any wooded or semi-open area. Winters in the tropics, mostly at forest edge or in second-growth woods in lowlands and foothills.
In leafy woodlands of the East, the Rose-breasted Grosbeak often stays out of sight among the treetops. However, its song -- rich whistled phrases, like an improved version of the American Robin's voice -- is heard frequently in spring and summer. Where the range of this species overlaps with that of the Black-headed Grosbeak on the Great Plains, the two sometimes interbreed.
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Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly in shrubs and trees, searching for food among foliage. Sometimes hovers to take insects from foliage or bark, or flies out to catch insects in mid-air.


Eggs

3-5, typically 4. Pale greenish blue, spotted with reddish brown. Incubation is by both parents, 13-14 days. Young: Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave nest about 9-12 days after hatching. Male may care for fledglings while female begins a new nest. 1-2 broods per year.


Young

Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave nest about 9-12 days after hatching. Male may care for fledglings while female begins a new nest. 1-2 broods per year.

Diet

Mostly insects, seeds, and berries. About half of annual diet may be insects, including beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers, true bugs, and others, also spiders and snails. Eats many seeds, including those of trees such as elms, and sometimes eats buds and flowers. May feed heavily on berries and small fruits in late summer and fall. Young are fed mostly insects.


Nesting

Male sings to defend nesting territory, and may fight actively with intruding males. In courtship, male may partly spread wings and tail, draw head back, and approach female while singing. Nest: Placed in deciduous tree or large shrub (occasionally in conifer), usually 5-20' above ground, sometimes much higher. Nest (built mostly by female) is an open cup, rather loosely made of twigs, weeds, leaves, lined with finer twigs, rootlets, and sometimes animal hair. May be so flimsy that eggs are visible through the nest from below.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Migration

Tends to migrate relatively late in spring and early in fall. Migrates at night. Strays appear widely in West during spring and fall.

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Migration

Tends to migrate relatively late in spring and early in fall. Migrates at night. Strays appear widely in West during spring and fall.

Songs and Calls
Its distinctive call note is a sharp, penetrating, metallic eek-eek. Song is like that of an American Robin, but softer and more melodious.